A Handful of Keys: 1922-1935

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Arwulf Arwulf
A wonderfully selected chronological taste of Fats Waller from his first piano solo up through the glorious ensemble swing of 1935. Many recent U.S. attempts at a Waller sampler seem haphazard by comparison. Ever since the deletion of his entire Bluebird catalog, the European labels have been a great source of consolation for disgruntled admirers of this man's music. One irritating shortcoming of most American reissues has been an apparent reluctance to include more than a thimbleful of Waller's exciting material from the 1920s. Nearly half of the sides included here date from before 1930. This allows the listener to follow the growth of young Thomas Waller and to arrive ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Arwulf Arwulf
A wonderfully selected chronological taste of Fats Waller from his first piano solo up through the glorious ensemble swing of 1935. Many recent U.S. attempts at a Waller sampler seem haphazard by comparison. Ever since the deletion of his entire Bluebird catalog, the European labels have been a great source of consolation for disgruntled admirers of this man's music. One irritating shortcoming of most American reissues has been an apparent reluctance to include more than a thimbleful of Waller's exciting material from the 1920s. Nearly half of the sides included here date from before 1930. This allows the listener to follow the growth of young Thomas Waller and to arrive at a greater appreciation of his impact upon the world. Here is Fats cutting a hot piano solo at the age of 19, daring to play such stuff on the pipe organ a few years later, and incorporating both instruments into hot ensembles, resulting in some of the toughest records of the entire decade. All that's missing is the knuckles 'n' know-how piano solo "Blue Black Bottom" of 1927, but you can't have everything. Waller was the first jazz organist, and the inclusion of two organ solos makes this disc all the more valuable, even if the liner notes imply that he didn't record with the organ between the years 1929 and 1942. On the contrary, Waller's 1935 recording of "Night Wind" is among the loveliest of his organ performances, and he trundled the instrument out on a regular basis throughout his career, particularly during the year 1939. Only three of the 1929 piano solos are included, but they illustrate perfectly why all of Waller's piano solos need to be made available and kept in circulation for the rest of time, possibly protected by an act of Congress or a United Nations resolution. For these are masterpieces worth contemplating over and over again. For the purposes of this CD, three will do, but there's plenty more piano solos where these came from, and one can never have enough. The inclusion of a piano duet with Benny Payne comes as a surprise, as previous compilers have often seemed to resent the presence of a second pianist, but indeed there is something exciting about hearing Cab Calloway's piano man interacting with Fats. "I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby" from 1930 like "Red Hot Dan" of 1927 is an early glimpse of Fats the Vocalist. Even more than his piano it was Thomas Waller's voice that made him into a nationally famous recording artist by the middle of the 1930s. Nine examples of Waller and his Rhythm recorded in 1934 and 1935 round off the album beautifully. Nearly every side they made in these first couple of years as a working unit had this fresh and cheeky quality. As time passed, some of the charm would occasionally fade as producers kept handing Fats ridiculously lousy material. Waller in 1939 or 1940 could sometimes sound just a little bit tired of Tin Pan Alley rejects. "A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid," on the other hand, is the perfect example of this artist's undiluted joie de vivre. What you have here then is Waller at his very best. Hopefully it will inspire some folks to go out and pursue the rest of his recordings, even if they have to purchase them from the French or the Dutch or the Swedes.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/7/2003
  • Label: JAZZ LEGENDS
  • UPC: 723724560123
  • Catalog Number: 1011

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Fats Waller Primary Artist, Organ, Piano, Celeste, Vocals
Al Casey Guitar
Bill Coleman Trumpet
Eddie Condon Banjo
Jimmy Archey Trombone
Herman Autrey Trumpet
Arnold Boling Drums
Arville Harris Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
Charlie Irvis Trombone
Mezz Mezzrow Alto, Clarinet, Alto Saxophone
Floyd O'Brien Trombone
Benny Payne Piano
Rudy Powell Alto, Clarinet, Alto Saxophone
Gene Sedric Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
Charles Turner Bass
Ben Whitted Alto, Clarinet
Harry Dial Drums, Vibes
Bobby Leecan Guitar
Thomas Morris Cornet
James Smith Guitar
Billy Taylor Jr. Bass
Charlie Gaines Trumpet
Harry Dial's Blusicians Drums, Vibes
Eddie King Drums
Eddie King Drums
Technical Credits
James P. Johnson Composer
Stanley Turrentine Composer
Fats Waller Composer
W.C. Handy Composer
Van Alexander Composer
Andy Razaf Composer
Frank Loesser Composer
Fred E. Ahlert Composer
Irving Caesar Composer
Henry Creamer Composer
Eddie DeLange Composer
Charlie Irvis Composer
J.C. Johnson Composer
Turner Layton Composer
Richard Maltby Jr. Composer
George Whiting Composer
Joseph Meyer Composer
Scott Yanow Liner Notes
Grady Watts Composer
Harry Brooks Composer
Joe Young Composer
J.C. Jones Composer
Alex Hill Composer
Maceo Pinkard Composer
Gerald Marks Composer
Sidney Mitchell Composer
Leo Wood Composer
Sammy Lerner Composer
Nat Schwartz Composer
Winky Tharp Composer
Sidney Easton Composer
Murray Horwitz Composer
Steve Pringle Remastering
Wm. D. Tennant Executive Producer
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