Fats Waller doesn't sing!
NI 2019 [72.43]
Here are 23 generous tracks of the literally unsung Fats Waller, though
many famous numbers feature here, and it's a follow-up to Nimbus's earlier
NI 2017 on which he sings much. The irrepressible Fats cannot restrain
the odd whoop or sign-off in the way only he knows how, and it's hard
to believe in his restraint in not bursting forth in his classic rendition
of 'Sweet Heartache', especially where the words "shake and tremble"
feature in the original. It's good to be able to focus solely on the
remarkable keyboard talents of the man, whether on piano, Hammond organ,
pipe organ, or celesta.
He always had brilliant colleagues and many of them feature here such
as Gene "Honey Bear" Sedric (reeds), Slick Jones (drums -
listen to his break on track 18, 'Blue, turning grey over you'), Herman
Autrey (trumpet), and Al Casey (guitar). There are some tracks featuring
Fats with Big Band, also a filmtrack ('Moppin' and Boppin'' from 'Stormy
Weather'), but generally he's at his best with his smaller group which
went under the name of Fats Waller and his Rhythm. The Earl Hines number
'Rosetta' with Waller's deliciously subtle celeste playing is a gem.
Waller was at ease with direct-to-disc recording techniques, even though
he was generally suffering from a mighty hangover, and three tracks
are transfers from 12" 78rpm discs and longer than the standard
10" of the day, giving us a four-minute fatter Fats.
Imagine the reaction of someone wandering off the street one lunch
hour into Trinity Church, Camden, New Jersey on 16 February 1927, in
expectation of perhaps hearing the organist practising his voluntary
for the following Sunday, but instead catching an irreverent Fats playing
'Stompin' the Bug' (track 13) or a month earlier, being skittishly nimble
on manuals and pedals in the witty 'Messin' around with the Blues' (track
19). Wonderful clean playing from which many an organist today could
learn a thing or two and there's a surprising ending too!
Another pair of cds which came my way recently, boxed by Gallerie in
1997 as 'A Portrait of Fats Waller' (GALE 412) has a generous 48 tracks
of the great man, but the genius of Fats Waller the keyboard player
is also well worth the outlay for this Nimbus offering.