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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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FATS WALLER

Complete Victor Piano Solos

Phoenix 131591

 

 

CD1

1. Blue Black Bottom

2. Handful Of Keys

3. Numb Fumbliní

4. Ainít Misbehaviní

5. Sweet Savannah Sue

6. Iíve Got The Feeling Iím Falling (take 2)

7. Iíve Got The Feeling Iím Falling (take 3)

8. Love Me Or Leave Me (take 1)

9. Love Me Or Leave Me (take 2)

10. Gladyse (take 1)

11. Gladyse (take 2)

12. Valentine Stomp (take 1)

13. Valentine Stomp (take 2)

14. Waiting At The End Of The Road (take 1)

15. Waiting At The End Of The Road (take 2)

16. Baby, Oh Where Can You Be? (take 1)

17. Baby, Oh Where Can You Be? (take 2)

18. Goiní About (take 1)

19. Goiní About (take 2)

20. My Feelings Are Hurt

21. Smashing Thirds

22. My Fate Is In Your Hands

23. Turn On The Heat

24. St. Louis Blues

25. After Youíve Gone

26. African Ripples

CD2

1. Clothes Line Ballet

2. Alligator Crawl

3. Viperís Drag

4. Keepiní Out Of Mischief Now

5. Stardust

6. Basin Street Blues

7. Tea For Two

8. I Ainít Got Nobody

9. Georgia On My Mind

10. Rockiní Chair

11. Carolina Shout (take 1)

12. Carolina Shout (take 2)

13. Honeysuckle Rose

14. Ring Dem Bells

15. London Suite I: Piccadilly

16. London Suite II: Chelsea

17. London Suite III: Soho

18. London Suite IV: Bond Street

19. London Suite V: Limehouse

20. London Suite VI: Whitechapel

21. Poor Butterfly

22. Saint Louis Blues

23. Hallelujah

24. Tea For Two

25. A Handful Of Keys

26. Swaltzing With Faust

Fats Waller - Piano

Benny Payne - Piano (tracks I/24, 25)

Max Levin - Drums (track II/18)

 

In jazz, it doesn't always pay to be a comedian. I suspect that Dizzy Gillespie has been underestimated because of his comic antics. The same certainly applies to Fats Waller, an irrepressible clown who loved to make fun of song lyrics and intersperse his recordings with wild cries and outrageous ad-libs. Yet in truth he was one of the finest pianists that jazz has ever known.

Waller learnt the essence of stride piano from James P. Johnson but his style was freer than Johnson's, often reducing the element of stride in favour of a lighter approach. The difference between the two men can be heard in this album's two versions of Johnson's composition Carolina Shout. Whereas Johnson's style looked back towards ragtime, Waller's is more in tune with the swing era. Even some of the earliest tracks in this collection - such as Handful of Keys from 1929 - have more the feeling of swing than of ragtime. You can trace the development of Waller's piano style on this double album because the tracks are arranged chronologically, except for the bonus tracks added at the end of the second CD. These all date from 1939 and include radio transcriptions (tracks 21 to 26) as well as Waller's London Suite, recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London.

The London Suite is especially interesting because it shows a serious, tender side to Waller's character. There are none of the comical interjections that one gets in many of Fats' group recordings. Instead, he depicts various aspects of London almost in the style of programme music. In this Suite, Waller seems to have adopted English "reserve", particularly in the poignant "Chelsea" section. Waller's friend Ed Kirkeby said that Fats only took an hour to compose the whole of this remarkable suite.

The London Suite also illustrates Waller's gift for melody, which is well-known from such compositions as Ain't Misbehavin' and Honeysuckle Rose. It is good to hear these in piano solo versions, as well as other richly melodic pieces such as Clothes Line Ballet (with varying tempi) and Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now (full of trills and bell-like sounds). And the humorous side of Fats creeps in right at the end with Swaltzing With Faust, which cheekily turns opera into jazz.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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