“Wallermania” – Tribute to Fats Waller by Alex Hassan, piano – Shellwood Productions

by | Dec 21, 2008 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

“Wallermania” – Tribute to Fats Waller by Alex Hassan, piano – Shellwood Productions SWCD37, 68:13 [www.shellwood.co.uk] ****:

Pianist Hassan apologizes in his liner notes for not being one of the front-line ragtime/stride piano stars such as Dick Hyman, and coming from a classical background in his versions of these Waller tunes.  His rationale for the album is to expose some of the terrific songs of the huge number which Waller wrote but which have been overshadowed by the popularity of just a few of his big hits. You won’t find Ain’t Misbehavin’ or Your Feets Too Big here – the 14 tracks are crammed with wonderful tunes in a variety of tempi, and not all of them in the clownish mood so associated with Waller. Some come from various all-black Broadway reviews he composed for, including a 1943 one titled When the Nylons Bloom Again – about the substitution of other less comfortable fabrics for nylon due to WWII rationing. There are also a few piano solos.

To assemble this tribute Alex checked out over 1600 piano solo 78s, a sheet music collection of some 30,000 sheets, and made use of his extensive immersion in the Golden Age of popular music. He has made ten other CDs of this type of music.  His technique is excellent, and his assemblies of the various medleys on this CD keep the tunes coming at you.  The sonics are fine – in fact it is a pleasure to hear the music without the usual noise and scratch.  But then again, it’s also without the inimitable vocals and comments of Waller – but we all probably have plenty of that on disc already.

TrackList: Old Yazzo, It It Ain’t Love, Stealin’ Apples, How Can You Face Me?, Zonky, Black and Blue, Strange As It Seems, Little Brown Betty, Palm Garden, Why Am I Alone?, Moonlight Mood, I’m Now Prepared to Tell the World It’s You, Blue Turning Grey Over You, I Got Love, Say It With Your Feet, Willow Tree, I’m Not Worrying, Sweet Savannah Sue, Alligator Crawl, I’m More Than Satisfied, Keep a Song in Your Soul, Snake Hip Dance, Take It From Me, I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby, How Jazz Was Born, Concentratin’ On You, Patty Cake Patty Cake, Happy Feeling, This Is So Nice, The Ladies Who Sing With a Band, There’s A Man in My Life, When the Nylons Bloom Again, Slightly Less Than Wonderful, The London Suite (1940), Gotta Be Gonna Be Mine, Prisoner of Love, That’s Where the South Begins, My Heart’s At Ease, You’re Breaking My Heart, Inside This Heart of Mine, My Fate Is in Your Hands, Heart of Stone!, Sheltered By the Stars, Cradled By the Moon.

 – John Henry

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