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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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The Complete Satch Plays Fats

Essential Jazz Classics
EJC 55601



1. Honeysuckle Rose

2. Blue Turning Grey Over You

3. I'm Crazy 'bout My Baby

4. Squeeze Me

5. Keepin' Out of Mischief Now

6. All That Meat and No Potatoes

7. I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling

8. Black and Blue

9. Ain't Misbehavin'

10. Honeysuckle Rose [alternate take 1]

11. Honeysuckle Rose [alternate take 2]

12. Blue Turning Grey Over You [alternate take 1]

13. Blue Turning Grey Over You [alternate take 2]

14. I'm Crazy 'bout My Baby [alternate take 1]

15. I'm Crazy 'bout My Baby [alternate take 2]

16. Keepin' Out of Mischief Now [partially alternate take]

17. I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling [alternate take]

18. Black and Blue [alternate take]

19. Ain't Misbehavin' [alternate take]

Louis Armstrong - Trumpet, vocals

Barney Bigard - Clarinet

Trummy Young - Trombone

Billy Kyle - Piano

Arvell Shaw - Bass

Barrett Deems - Drums

Velma Middleton - Vocals (tracks 1, 4, 6, 10, 11)


Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller had a mutual success appearing in Hot Chocolates, for which Waller wrote the music (including such songs as Ain't Misbehavin' and Black and Blue). They were good friends, so it is no surprise that Louis paid tribute to Fats with this album of Waller compositions. It may also have been chosen as a suitable album to follow the success of the preceding year's Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy.

Satch Plays Fats was recorded and released in 1955, with only nine tracks. Subsequent issues of the album have added extra tracks, as this CD does: adding ten alternate takes. Some critics had cavilled at Louis' All Stars and indeed at Armstrong's playing with the group, suggesting that it marked a decline from Louis' earlier work. Yet this album was hailed by most people as a great achievement - an assessment I share.

We all know Honeysuckle Rose, which opens the album, but how often do we hear the verse? It is performed here by singer Velma Middleton with Louis joining in. The alternate takes differ in such things as who sings which part. Blue Turning Grey Over You is a masterly performance, with Satch's moving statement of the theme in vocals and a trumpet solo.

And so it continues, with solos shared among the band members and Louis playing and singing with his customary vigour. Trummy Young and Barney Bigard contribute several admirable solos. I'm Crazy 'bout My Baby includes Louis swapping scat phrases with Trummy Young's trombone. Velma Middleton's vocal in Squeeze Me is punctuated by Louis' cheeky comments, much as Fats Waller did when he was performing.

Double-tracking allows Louis to accompany his own singing in Keepin' Out of Mischief Now. And the same process allows him to sing and scat at the same time in I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling. His vocal in All That Meat and No Potatoes has the same kind of sauciness that Fats Waller so often had. Lous delivers Black and Blue with dignity, both in his voice and with his trumpet. Ain't Misbehavin' ends with an inceredible cadenza played by Louis with backing only from Barrett Deems on the drums.

This was - and is - one of Armstrong's finest albums. It illustrates the resemblances between him and Fats Waller. And it also shows what a talented composer Waller was. It is sad that, while composers like George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin are rightly praised as creators of the Great American Songbook, Fats Waller is often omitted from this pantheon.

Tony Augarde

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