Fats Waller

Friday, October 30, 2009

I don't recall exactly where I got the idea to post on my favorite jazz musician, but it has already paid off twice beyond the enjoyment that Fats Waller's music always brings me.

Speaking of which, I'll start this post by embedding a couple of videos of his performances of "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "This Joint is Jumpin'" from the movie, Stormy Weather, which I'd never heard of until I found the videos. That movie's already in the Netflix cue, though:

[The movie] is considered a time capsule showcasing some of the top African-American performers of the time, during an era when black actors and singers rarely appeared in lead roles in mainstream Hollywood productions, particularly of the musical genre.
In addition to its rarity and its all-star lineup, the film also seems to capture the general benevolence of American culture of the time and with it, that of Fats Waller himself.

Lena Horne shooting down a guy with the phrase, "thank you" is a very amusing touch in the above video.

I'm looking forward to seeing the whole movie.

In addition to learning about a Hollywood classic, I also learned/was reminded about remastering. The audio of the below YouTube video of "All that Meat and No Potatoes" comes from a collection of remastered hits. My next trip to Amazon for music will include some remastered Fats Waller.

I'll close with a vignette from Waller's life that I recall from about a decade ago when I read Ain't Misbehavin': The Story of Fats Waller, by Ed Kirkeby:
As it happened, they got there on time, but even Fats' eyes goggled when he saw, standing awaiting them in the studio, a large Scotsman clad in kilt and sporran, and with a set of bagpipes under his arm. Mr. Watson welcomed the three musicians, then rather hesitantly said, "This gentleman wishes to make some jazz records with you on the bagpipes. The records will be for his private use only -- they will not be released." The three stunned musicians nodded.

After some discussion as to the tunes to be played, the session finally got under way. To the amazement of Fats and Bubber Miley the piper played jazz, and knew what it was all about. Hot bagpipes was not exactly what they expected, but the music began to sound better the longer they progressed. Zutty laid down a solid beat, and with Bubber's growling horn and Fats' pretty figures on the piano, the jive was really jumping. On playback, they were astounded at the good jazz that had been played, and so finally they cut a few more. Later that evening in Harlem, Fats and company found themselves telling their story to unbelieving ears, and it was a long time before they could get anybody to take the story seriously, there being no proof. The records and the piper disappeared, and were never heard of again by either Fats, Bubba, or Zutty -- but the last-named still sticks to the story that this was a session that really happened. The records, if they still exist, probably remain the proud possession of some Scottish collector, who, if he chances to read this, might do jazz a service by making them available for issue. [minor edits]
Waller died young from pneumonia: Louis Armstrong cried for hours upon hearing the news. Fortunately, his benevolent spirit lives on in a highly creative and enjoyable body of work.

-- CAV

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