Truly Great Music
Nathan C. Larson | Los Angeles, CA USA | 09/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fats Waller began his famous series of "Rhythm" recordings for RCA in the spring of 1934. And although his recording carrer, mainly as a solo pianist, went all the way back to 1922, these were the small group recordings that introduced him as a singer and all around entertainer. The recordings that he made from that time until about the middle of 1936 were the finest of this series, and were as fine a series of Jazz and popular recordings as anyone has ever made. Indeed, the rate at which Fats was producing great Jazz during this period is truly staggering.
In my opinion, for various reasons, the recordings that followed this initial watershed period were almost uniformly of a less inspired quality. Perhaps the formula of the approach of these performances had worn out for Fats. Then too, it seems that the quality of the material had diminished. Fats was also famous for fast living (drinking), and I believe that his precarious and finally waning health was a real factor in the in the diminishment of his powers.
That said, let me say that I have always had a special affection for the recordings that Fats made in London during 1938 & '39. It seems that he was inspired by many of the events that took place during these two European tours and this comes across on these performances. The material is also varied and extremely engaging. The chance to hear Fats play a set of Spirituals at the solo organ is unique in his discography. Do not let the value of these performances be lost on you. They are incredible. The "London Suite" is also not to be missed by anyone interested in Fats' music. Six miniature stride compositions, each dedicated to a different section of the city. This is among the most important of Fats' music that we have.
Also, Fats did a series of recordings based on the model of his "Rhythm" recordings with a group of very capable of British musicians. Of these, "Pent Up In A Penthouse" and "Music Maestro, Please" are first rate Fats. There are also two great performances with Fats singing alone at the organ: "You Cant Have Your Cake And Eat It", and the stupendous "Smoke Dreams Of You"."