Fats Waller & His Rhythm Boxed Set = “If You Got To Ask, You Ain’t Got It” – 3 CD Overview of his career with 100-p. illustrated booklet – Bluebird/Legacy

by | Oct 11, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Fats Waller & His Rhythm Boxed Set = “If You Got To Ask, You Ain’t Got It” – 3 CD Overview of his career with 100-p. illustrated booklet – Bluebird/Legacy 82876 81125 2, about 3 1/2 hrs. *****:

This beautifully-packaged set is a sort of compilation of a compilation.  In the 1990s Grammy Award winning jazz producer Orrin Keepnews compiled a series of 3  3-CD album sets and 3 2-CD sets, devoted to the entire career of Fats Waller – a total of 15 discs.  Each had a similar 22 or 23 tracks per disc. Now Legacy asked Keepnews to do it again, but keep it to only three CDs, which is what is at hand. There were a number of alternate takes  and repeats in the original sets – although the vast majority of the hundreds of sides Fats made were first takes! NoNoise processing was used to clean up the old 78s.  I didn’t notice any serious sonic improvements in the restorations of similar tracks in the new boxed set.

The big plus of the new package is the very attractive tall-format sepia-toned booklet,  full of rare photos from the collection of Fat’s last manager, Ed Kirbeby.  Waller and his musicians on the road are depicted in the great images. The text is mostly a 15,000-word essay by Grammy winner Dan Morgenstern, which paints a wonderful picture of this irrepressible larger-than-life performer. He also provides a track-by-track analysis of all 66 selections. Producer Keepnews adds his words about condensing his previous 320-track Waller collection into this 66-track box. His success in both projects is right up there with the Grammy-winning box sets he did for Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans.

The three CDs are organized to reflect three different elements of the Waller phenomenon.  Disc 1 is “Fats Waller Sings and Plays Fats Waller” – his original tunes are the focus here, among them Honeysuckle Rose, Squeeze Me, and Ain’t Misbehavin’. Next is “Strictly Instrumental” – his amazing stride piano virtuosity, as well as on the pipe organ and with his versatile band mates. Even in this section we get a taste of Waller’s hilarious comments over the music during Lounging at the Waldorf – he’s playing a sort of concierge showing visitors around the hotel. Ten of the tracks are unaccompanied piano solos, with every note just right and perfect tempi.  Waller may have led a wild life of partying, drinking and eating, but when in the recording studio he was ever on the ball and completely professional. The third element of the set is titled “Fats Waller Sings and Plays Around With Tin Pan Alley.”  This one displays his spectacular showmanship with both tunes from the Great American Songbook as well as corny numbers the record label asked him to record. His sendup of some of the tunes made them big hits in spite of their lack of quality.

If you don’t already have any of the 90s projects and you didn’t bite on 2004’s 2 CD set commemorating Waller’s 100th birthday, by all means snap this new package up.  You may want to anyway just for the terrific and fascinating booklet.

Disc: 1
1. Honeysuckle Rose
2. How Can You Face Me?
3. Panic Is On
4. Sugar Rose
5. I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby
6. Lost Love
7. Our Love Was Meant to Be
8. Joint Is Jumpin’
9. Hopeless Love Affair
10. Hold My Hand
11. Patty Cake, Patty Cake
12. Honey Hush
13. Anita
14. Squeeze Me
15. Old Grand Dad
16. All That Meat and No Potatoes
17. Ain’t Nothing to It
18. Bessie, Bessie, Bessie
19. Cash for Your Trash
20. You Must Be Losing Your Mind
21. Up Jumped You with Love
22. Ain’t Misbehavin’
Disc: 2
1. St. Louis Blues – Louisiana Sugar Babes
2. ‘Sippi – Louisiana Sugar Babes
3. Thou Swell – Louisiana Sugar Babes
4. Numb Fumblin’ – Fats Waller
5. Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Fats Waller
6. Love Me or Leave Me – Fats Waller
7. Smashing Thirds – Fats Waller
8. My Fate Is in Your Hands – Fats Waller
9. African Ripples – Fats Waller
10. Viper’s Drag – Fats Waller
11. Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now – Fats Waller
12. Stardust – Fats Waller
13. Carolina Shout – Fats Waller
14. Serenade for a Wealthy Widow
15. Rosetta
16. Functionizin’
17. Loungin’ at the Waldorf
18. Blue, Turnin’ Grey Over You
19. In the Gloamin’
20. Mamacita
21. Jitterbug Waltz
22. Honeysuckle Rose
Disc: 3
1. (I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead) You Rascal You
2. You’re Not the Only Oyster in the Stew
3. What’s the Reason (I’m Not Pleasin’ You)
4. Lulu’s Back in Town
5. I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter
6. Dinah
7. There’ll Be Some Changes Made
8. Somebody Stole My Gal
9. Christopher Columbus
10. It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie
11. She’s Tall, She’s Tan, She’s Terrific
12. Sheik of Araby
13. Two Sleepy People
14. Good Man Is Hard to Find
15. Hold Tight (Want Some Seafood, Mama) [#]
16. ‘Tain’t What You Do (It’s the Way You Do It)
17. Your Feet’s Too Big
18. Darktown Strutters’ Ball
19. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love
20. You Run Your Mouth, I’ll Run My Business
21. Let’s Get Away from It All
22. ‘Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do

 – John Henry 

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