The essence of Fats Waller certainly seems to have found its way onto Avid Entertainment's 52-track The Essential Collection. Released in 2006, this is a thoroughly scrambled assortment of piano and organ solos, examples of Waller as a sideman with Jack Teagarden's Orchestra and Thomas Morris' Hot Babies, and a whole lot of great moments with Fats Waller & His Buddies, Fats Waller & His Rhythm, and Fats Waller, His Rhythm & Orchestra. Waller was the very first jazz organist, and the examples heard here (five syncopated organ solos scattered throughout, as well as the bracing hot-jazz-band-with-pipe-organ sound of "Won't You Take Me Home") should be understood as revolutionary achievements, in light of the fact that the only organ recordings circulating in 1927 were exclusively classical or heavily sweetened pop music. Six piano solos convey the magnificence of Harlem stride, a style that Waller learned first-hand from James P. Johnson, Luckey Roberts, and Willie "The Lion" Smith. This collection is designed for casual listening. The sprinkling of organ solos between ensemble tracks might actually enable some listeners to relax and enjoy the muscular undulations of this unusual instrument. Note that this is one of the few Waller compilations that acts upon "Eddie Condon's" insistance that the recording usually referred to as "Minor Drag" was originally supposed to be called "Harlem Fuss," and vice versa. Whoever selected the "Rhythm" sides obviously wanted to illustrate Waller's full range of emotion and temperament. "Rump Steak Serenade" stands as a good example of what Fats Waller & His Rhythm sounded like as the core of a well-arranged big band. And Irving Berlin's "That's What the Well Dressed Man in Harlem Will Wear" (here Waller sings WWII propaganda in front of the Victor First Nighter Orchestra) bears witness to the War Effort to which Waller sacrificed his final months of restless activity before succumbing to pneumonia at the age of 39 in December 1943. A good introduction to Thomas Waller, and an incitement to study his legacy up close, perhaps in a more thorough and carefully structured manner.