This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews. The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as CD Reviews 1 - 50 and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency with the published CD reviews.
This is number thirty eight in the series of retro-reviews of Cd albums in my collection.
The series is called, “Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
With over 25 albums to his name, choosing any particular album is difficult. I was tempted to leave Fats Waller until I return to my Cream of The Crate vinyl reviews, but I love this Cd.
The CD is titled “Aint Misbehavin’” and was released on the SMS label in 1990. Its code is SMS 20.
The Cd has a total of 12 tracks and cannot possibly cover all his best work any means, but certainly has some ripper of tracks.
I can’t really complain about the booklet, as there isn’t one!
I guess it’s either a case of producers not thinking him worthy, or maybe I just chose the wrong Cd – Certainly musically I certainly didn’t!
A short bio on him would say something like this.
Born Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller on May 21, 1904, in New York City, Fats learned to play piano at the age of 6 and quickly moved onto learning the reed organ, string bass and violin.
He dropped out of school around the age of 15, which in those days meant he had a better than average education. On leaving school he became an organist at the Lincoln Theatre in Harlem.
Fats Waller made his recording debut in 1922 for Okeh Records with the solo efforts “Muscle Shoals Blues” and “Binningham Blues.”
Not long after he released “Squeeze Me,” an important early work that established his bona fides as a songwriter.
He really was larger than life both with his physical size and his engaging personality. Fats quickly gained a reputation for both alcohol and female attention.
He became more involved with writing and performing for revues in the late 1920s, starting with Keep Shufflin’ in 1927.
Developing a writing partnership with Andy Razaf, he wrote two of his most famous stage songs, Honeysuckle Rose and Ain’t Misbehavin’.
During this time, Waller also recorded such standards as Handful of Keys and Valentine Stomp as a soloist, and The Minor Drag and Harlem Fuss, all as leader of Fats Waller and His Buddies.
Waller played with many performers, from Nat Shilkret (on Victor 21298-A) and Gene Austin, to Erskine Tate, Fletcher Henderson, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and Adelaide Hall, but his greatest success came with his own five- or six-piece combo, “Fats Waller and his Rhythm”.
However, while his fame was spreading, he was becoming disenchanted with the comedic, irreverent persona that fans had come to expect from his broadcasts.
Like so many artist that followed him, he sought more respect as a serious artist yet he really never did live down his nickname as “The Clown Prince of Jazz“.
He appeared to be making strong strides in that direction after a trip to England in 1938, recording the ambitious composition London Suite, but fate had other ideas and he never achieved the acclamation he desired during his life, despite being credited with copyrighting over 400 songs.
There is nothing fancy at all about the packaging, and all of that belies the amazing music on this Cd.
It real is impossible to talk about the music on this album without mentioning track #1 – Aint Misbehavin’.
The track was first recorded in August 1929 in Camden, NJ, on Victor Records. Written Fats Waller, with lyrics Andy Razaf, it was part of the score for the Broadway play Hot Chocolates.
The song was actually written in March 1929 as a vehicle for Louis Armstrong to sing from the orchestra pit, but when Armstrong dazzled audiences with his vocal performance of the song, the producers of the play changed the script to bring him on-stage to sing it.
The track was Fats’ attempt to answer his critics complaints about his penchant for wine and women. Mind you, Fats was well known for keeping a couple of bottles of gin clearly on the table for use during rehearsals.
There is a version of this track which is a combination of ragtime piano and stride piano, and I have provided that version in a video clip below.
However, in the Cd version we find Fats dropping the pace down a notch and switching across to playing the track on organ.
It is still considered as one of the five best tracks ever written by Waller and has been recorded all the greats including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Erroll Garner – but the list can go on.
No one to talk with, all myself
No one to walk with, I’m happy on the shelf babe
Ain’t misbehavin’, savin’ my love for you
I know for certain the one I love
I’m through with flirtin’, you that I’m thinkin’ of
Oh savin’ my love oh ba, love for you
Like Jack Horner in a corner
Don’t go nowhere and I don’t care
Oh your kisses worth waitin’ for, babe
I don’t stay out late, don’t care to go
I’m home about eight, me and my radio, babe
Savin’ all my love for you
The second track to be featured is track #7 – The Joint is Jumpin’.
This track most certainly features Fats on piano, and playing up a storm.
The track features his group – Rhythm, and that’s what he wanted from them. They were probably not the greatest all-star aggregation, but boy, could they swing!
Certainly there were some gifted musicians in it, especially Al Casey the guitarist. You can hear some of their ebullience as they play and the fact that they just swing like crazy on this track.
With The Joint is Jumpin’, it is reputed that written at the top of Fats’ own sheet music of this track was, “tempo – disturb de neighbors“!
It’s not just the music that sets the scene however, the lyrics tell the story as well. Here is the first few verses.
They have a new expression along old Harlem way,
That tells you when a party is ten times more than gay:
To say that things are jumpin’ leaves not a single doubt,
That everthing is in full swing when you hear someone shout.
The joint is jumpin’,
It’s really jumpin’,
Come in, cats, and check your hats,
I mean this joint is jumpin’!
The piano’s thumpin’,
The dancers are bumpin’,
This here spot is more than hot,
In fact, the joint is jumpin’!
The Joint Is Jumpin’
I Aint Got Nobody is track #10.
I chose this track because I love the ragtime feel of it. It’s a great up-tempo piece it really is a case of Fats “tickling” the ivory’s.
The track was recorded in 1937 and again features the smoooth guitar work of Al Casey.
It was written Roger Graham and Spencer Williams and recorded many artists but I really like the Waller version, which features the voice of Fats and its a version that he sings so sweetly in.
I Aint Got Nobody
The final track I have chosen is in fact the final track on the CD – Track 12 and it’s Twelfth Street Rag.
Any track that has over 120 versions indicates that it is a great composition.
Composed by Euday Bowman, it is not complex in structure but unusual in that it used a theme and variations structure. But what made it so popular is its use of a repeating three note motif, often called a “secondary rag”, and for jazz style pianists it was both catchy and easy to play.
In 1927 when it was first played, it provided a very exciting sound which players of the day described as “rhythmically exciting.”
However today the style is considered as “corny” and is often used where deliberately corny quasi-jazz is needed.
Now often there is a big “but” – and this is one of those times. But despite all that is said about this track, Fats provides a very unique interpretation of it.
Recorded him and his Rhythm in 1933, it was the lyrics that Waller added, and his humorous “outbursts” during the sideman’s solo’s marks it as a Waller classic.
Joining Fats is Al Casey (again on guitar) and Rudy Powell on Clarinet and Herman Autry on trumpet. Their combination really stirs things up and provides their own brand of “jovial jazz’, and as Fat’s cries out, “Ba get those hotdogs ready“, it is just unbridled fun.
The shame of it all is, that this track was one of those great fun-rime jazz tracks that led some critics to turn on Fats Waller, and call him a clown!
Well, we sure as hell remember Fats, but not one of his critics.
12th Street Rag
Fats passed away on December 15, 1943, but among musicians and legions of fans he will always be remembered.
In a music period rapidly racing toward 100 years from when Fats Waller started, he, along with many other great jazz/boogie woogie/ragtime pianists – such as Scott Joplin, need to be remembered.
Their music for most ears no longer provides a reference to what we say, feel, do or indeed want to hear. Yet their contribution to the development of music as we know it, while now seemingly tenuous, should most definitely be remembered, and appreciated!
Unlike many of the albums I have retro-reviewed, I can’t claim that this is a must for any collection
Yet, Fats Waller IS a must for anyone gathering music styles that are unique and contribute to the richness of the from of art, that we call music.
Do be aware, that this compilation, although wearing the same album title as the 1956 vinyl LP with the same name – is in fact a different production.
There are a number of Fats Waller Cd’s and even vinyl albums still available.
The sad thing is the postage is often more expensive than the Cd/vinyl album.
I think Fats would have been amused!
I was amazed at the number of live clips of Fats Waller available on Youtube, eSpecially in regard to the lack of such live clips of artists who came after him. Here is a selection, including the piano version of “Aint Misbehavin'”
Ain’t Misbehavin’ with Lena Horne, dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson
Your Feet’s Too Big
I’ve Got My Fingers Crossed
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
Click to open the following CD reviews:
#21. 2nu – Ponderous