THE AMAZING MR. WALLER VOLUME 2: Jivin’ with Fats
Jazz Archives #1000(10”)
Some Special versions of traditional songs
1. Oh, Susanna (2:53) (Stephen Foster)
2. Loch Lomond (3:10) (traditional)
3. Faust Waltz (2:57) (Gounod)
4. When You And I Were Young, Maggie (3:23) (Butterfield – Johnson)
5. Oh, Dem Golden Slippers (2:44) (James Bland)
6. Old Oaken Bucket (3:16) (E. Kellmark)
7. Intermezzo (2:44) (Leoncavallo)
8. Annie Laurie (2:46) (traditional)
It was never any secret that Thomas "Fats" Waller was one of the most remarkable entertainers this country has ever known. So you can't say that the newly released numbers that make up the two long-playing records titled "The Amazing Mr. Waller" are in any way "proof" of his talents. His virtuosity, his humor, his range of moods, the special appeal of his voice - all this has long been well-established.
But it has been some ten years since Waller's death (certainly he died too soon; and however long he might have lived, it would always have been too soon to be deprived of this incredibly ebullient personality). There are a substantial number of people who have grown up without ever having had an opportunity to hear Fats. There are many more whose memories of the sound of his voice, his piano, his organ might have grown just a bit dim - who have often felt it to be high time, and more, that they be able to hear him again, trying his most capable hand at new material.
For such reasons, it provides a very pleasant feeling to offer these extern selections by Fats, which are now available for the first time on records. In any event, you'd have to feel pleasant in the presence of Mr. Waller. He simply wouldn't allow it to be any other way.
Not that Fats was merely a "clown". He was a great deal more than that, although he was very much the clown, too - if you'll take that word at its best, and fit it into a great comic tradition that includes W. C. Fields, the Marx Brothers and circus clowns like Emmett Kelly, and that undoubtedly stretches back to the medieval court jesters: all of them men who could make us laugh at them and at ourselves at the same time, all of them capable of exposing through satire the pompous pretensions of conventional society.
To those who love jazz, Fats has a special value, as a unique kind of ambassador to the rest of the world. Few musicians who understood and played jazz ever achieved such wide public acclaim. Fats Waller's appeal went far beyond the narrow limits that are often placed on "real jazz," yet never in his life played anything that could not be called jazz. As these recordings indicate, he could take the most unlikely material and from it derive a performance that fits any sensible definition of the field. Sincerity, virility, a dependence on music rather than trikery - such terms describe the aim (if not always the achievements) of jazz, and they also unfailingly describe the music of Fats Waller.
His secret seems to have been something that might as well be called "good taste." His playing and singing could be devastatingly sardonic, but never wantonly cruel; ribald, but never smutty (since smut involves the feeling that there's something 'wrong' and 'dirty' in what you're doing). And he could please the public as a whole without ever disappointing those who looked on him as a jazzman, the one-tine pupil of James P. Johnson, the kid who started out at rent parties and in Harlem dives, who could plunge and roll and really swing with an intricacy and abandon that few could hope to equal.
That was Fats, a man who understood what the music was, who must have realized that there is no real dividing line between comedy and pathos. Then there was a day in 1938 when he sat down to cut these recordings. Just Tom Waller, all by himself, first at the organ and then at the piano. and it would seem to have been just one of those rare days, when he had all those thoughts about comedy and pathos and satire and jazz firmly (though not necessarily consciously or deliberately) in mind:
The songs on this LP have been played and played, sung and sung, until you might have thought all their possibilities had been exhausted, all their appeal used up. Similarly, the waltz from Gounod's opera, "Faust," and the Intermezzo from Leoncavallo's "Cavalleria Rusticana" have made the rounds of the light-concert circuit for longer than anyone cares to remember.
But then Mr. Waller took bold of them. The results perhaps might not please the original composers, concert tenors, or high school glee club leaders, but they're surely the only ones likely to complain. When Fats attacks (and that's the only word for it) When You and I Were Young, Maggie, or gallops off on his "fine," Arabian "Golden Slippers", the panic is really on. In a deft demonstration of economy, it takes him just one word - his unprecedented pronounciation of "Loch" - to demolish the particular breed of singers who, at about the time of this recording, were gaily turning Loch Lomond into a Hit-Parade-type "swing song." And after he finished with Oh, Susanna, with its vocal "banjo" chorus and its special handling of the line "I've come from Alabammy...", you can consider yourself fully revenged on folksy banjoists, night club pseudo-folk singers, and the guy who turned that party last week-end into a community sing.
His indifference to the merits of the lyrics here doesn't keep Fats from making the most of the melodies. His power, his imagination, his "bright" touch, and the technical skill and daring of his sudden bursts and runs, turn this material into pure jazz, raging from the light and delicately swinging of the Faust Waltz to the hearty riffs of Maggie. It's all good fun and good music which is exactly what Fats always provided.
Long-Playing (331/3 rpm) Fats Waller recording on Riverside:
RLP-1021 The Amazing Mr. Waller, Vol. 1: Fats at the Organ
RLP-1022 The Amazing Mr. Waller, Vol. 2: Jivin’ with Fats
RLP-1010 Rediscovered Fats Waller Solos, transcribed from early piano rolls
(also available at 45 rpm, on REP 105)
Issued by special arrangement.
LP produced by Bill Grauer.
Notes by Orrin Keepnews.
Cover by Hal Zamboni.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
125 LaSalle Street New York 27, New York