Somehow Waller did make the pipe organ swing. There is a great moment during his recording of "Sugar" on the Camden organ, accompanying the blues singer Alberta Hunter, when she chimes in during his solo, "Plonk that thing, Fats!
He was also doing things that classically trained organists would say are almost impossible to pull off artistically: playing staccato, playing slurs and slides, playing clustered chords and arpeggios. All these effects require split-second judgment and an incredible sensitivity to tone and touch. But the pieces are more than vehicles for Waller's technical flash; they are compositional gems, flights of melodic and harmonic invention that reflect Waller's musical genius in its purest and most concentrated form.
Many of the tunes, of his own composition and not, are fairly standard Tin Pan Alley formulas, but Waller subjected them to a theme-and-variations treatment that milked their possibilities to the utmost. He could take an ordinary folk tune like "Careless Love" it appears as "Loveless Love" on Waller's recording or a standard like "I Ain't Got Nobody" and dissect it in a series of improvisational inventions that are themselves the strongest answer to the criticism -- still sometimes heard from jazz historians who focus on Waller's later success and superficially buffoonish stage persona -- that Waller was formulaic and "commercial," not a true artist.
Such improvisational performances have not generally been thought of as "compositions"; jazz in the s and s was still evolving from a largely unwritten tradition, and the very spontaneity of performances would seem to argue against the idea of composition at all. But part of the tradition, especially for keyboard players, involved learning the performances of the masters, if for no other reason than to be able to "cut" them at the sort of free-for-all competitions that took place on the Harlem party circuit.
Waller himself learned to play a number of pieces by the master of the "stride" piano style, James P. Johnson , by slowing down player-piano rolls that Johnson had made and placing his fingers over the keys as they dropped down. Although each stride pianist had his own style, and might never play the same piece exactly the same way twice, a few particularly well-known numbers became standards.
Every stride pianist learned, for example, Johnson's classic rendition of "Carolina Shout" -- if only to out-Johnson Johnson at it. The obvious care with which Waller worked out his organ pieces offers another good argument for treating them as genuine compositions. And a volume of seventeen transcriptions of Waller's organ, piano, and vocal performances, to be published later this year as part of the American Musicological Society's Music of the United States of America MUSA series, may go a long way toward establishing Waller as an important, even great, American composer.
His organ works in particular have a balance, structure, and movement that can seem almost classical, with series of increasingly embellished variations, often in very different styles and forms, welded together into beautiful, coherent wholes by their carefully laid-out harmonic underpinnings and interlocking melodic themes.
Call-and-response passages, witty countermelodies, and Waller's rich exploitation of the many different voices of the organ to orchestrate different passages all suggest a meticulously planned performance that nevertheless retains its improvisational quality.
With the publication of the MUSA volume, called Fats Waller: Performances in Transcription, several of Waller's organ works will be available for the first time in a definitive written form for study -- and they may even become part of the classical organ repertoire, just as Scott Joplin's piano rags are now an established part of the classical piano repertoire. THE problematic difference between Joplin and Waller is that Joplin like other ragtime composers really did compose: he sat down at the piano, wrote out the notes, and published his pieces as sheet music.
Although Waller's style of stride-piano playing was a direct descendant of ragtime, Waller rarely wrote out his pieces in full; not until the mids did he even write down so much as a skeleton of the parts for both hands.
In general, he would write only a simple melody line and the most fragmentary additional notations of the overall dimensions of the piece. All that was required to copyright an original tune was a melody and a title.
Waller did record some rolls for player piano, but these are considered unreliable sources, because rolls were often modified after they had been recorded, by having extra holes punched in them.
A few of Waller's more popular piano pieces were published as sheet music during his lifetime -- but, says Paul Machlin, the author of the MUSA volume, these are "deeply simplified" versions cranked out by "some Tin Pan Alley hack" who listened to Waller's playing and came up with at best a rough approximation. The Camden studio had only one piano, so Johnson played it and Waller moved to the organ.
Waller uses the Estey as a color instrument throughout the session and his countermelodies behind the soloists are delightful and inventive. Bushell gets the double reed instrument to swing rather well, and the counterpoint behind him by Johnson and Waller is quite fascinating. The two takes of the Rodgers and Hart standard are sheer delight, with fine solos by Waller and Bushell, a extraordinary duet by Smith and Johnson, and a powerfully swinging final chorus.
Only a few cases of tempo rushing on the alternate separates it from the master in terms of quality. It would be 17 months before Waller recorded again on the Estey. Waller may have been incarcerated for some of that time there were continuing issues with alimony payments to his first wife , and when he returned to Camden on March 1 and August 2, , he recorded only on piano in solo and band settings. Two of the songs recorded as pipe organ solos on August 29 were also made as piano solos, and the pipe organ versions remained unissued until the s.
Waller swings well, but sticks close to the melody throughout, and the recordings are not very memorable. His varied bass patterns all provide elements of the elegant swing he had recorded in his earlier sides, and there are effective dynamic contrasts, sparking registration choices, and even a few well-executed blue notes.
Such a project was probably planned a year or so in advance, and with the Estey soon to be retired, Waller made a final recording at Camden on January 5, There was also a technical problem that came up early in the session, and Victor treated the band to an extended lunch while the glitches were fixed.
With a full rhythm section in place, Waller barely uses the organ pedals, and the Estey is essentially a color instrument. Waller may have experimented with Hammond organs by this time, and most of the registrations sound like the ones he would use a few years later after moving exclusively to the electronic instrument. While the melody predominates, Waller plays a fine variation in the final eight bars.
Waller sings the melody more-or-less straight, with obbligatos by tenor saxophonist Gene Sedric and trumpeter Bill Coleman. Waller makes the occasional jump into parody during his vocal chorus.
Sedric now on clarinet plays the melody along with Waller in the opening chorus, and Coleman plays a lovely countermelody behind the vocal, before taking the lead in the final chorus. Waller was always the star of his own recordings, so the British sidemen—while not of the caliber of American jazz musicians—were suitable for these sessions. Waller must have sang this song a few thousand times during his career, but he still found fresh ways to sing the lines and to back them up on the keyboard.
A week later, Waller returned to Abbey Road and recorded six organ solos. Four of the songs were authentic spirituals and the other two were pop songs inspired by spirituals. Waller, who was profoundly religious all his life, treats these songs with great respect, and creates a stunning suite in the process.
Waller creates great dynamic contrasts through the volume pedal, and for once, the effect fits the material. The coda is especially stunning with booming bass from the pedals and church-like registration leading to a sudden pianissimo ending. Before he shifts to a quicker tempo for the coda, there is a brief episode with contrary-motion solo lines in the manual and pedals. Near the end of the session, vocalist Adelaide Hall joined Waller for two duets. Feel free to make a purchase as a guest! Checkout as Guest.
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Thank You You have been subscribed to Amoeba newsletter. The Sheik of Araby. Honeysuckle Rose. Viper's Drag. I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby. After You've Gone. Complete Recorded Works, Vol. Burnett and on to the Big Band swing of the Fletcher Henderson Band and beyond, Waller shows incredible chops and the keen ear of a first call accompanist. In the many solo pipe organ recordings, Waller dazzles with his deft touch and incessant swing.
Grounded in the stride piano style, armed with a vast knowledge of current popular song styles and forms and a love of Bach, too! Listen here and you'll hear how that voice developed. Not only will you learn much, you'll have a delightful time of it! Decent notes and the sound quality is as good as one could hope for. The Complete Recorded Works, Vol. Easily taken for granted with his bubbly and entertaining personality and accessible style, it's easy to forget what a true artist Waller was and what a great and long lasting contribution he made to jazz.
Waller, a brilliant stride pianist, dabbles with New Orleans Hot, Boogie and "Chicago" styles of jazz, turning it into a style uniquely his own. Hard to imagine there was a Great Depression on when these tracks were recorded leading to Waller only releasing two sides in ; the songs are upbeat, light-hearted, and joyous - very representative of a man that lived life to its fullest. Beautifully compiled and with very nice sound, the only thing this fantastic set is lacking are notes that are worthy of the music and the effort that went into putting this together.
Five hours plus of music and you still want more Where Can You Be? The third volume in this indispensible series features tracks recorded between November and August by this musical giant at the peak of his powers. This set includes a recently discovered alternate take of Lulu's Back In Town. In continuing to offer the complete recorded works of Fats Waller, JSP offers a cultural treasure chest nearly unequalled in the history of recorded music. These 4 discs encompass recordings done in Fats' native New York, Chicago, and Hollywood, Ca between a busy touring schedule.
Waller's infectious, humorous vocals are present in most of the tunes there are quite a few instrumentals Excellent transfers and sound, and the notes are wonderful! With Vol.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. I'll Dance at Your Wedding Won't You Take Me Home 2. Waller creates great dynamic contrasts through the volume pedal, and for once, the effect fits the material. When this occurs, humanity will at last have taken decisive steps towards paying worthy homage to the Harlem pianists whose music played a decisive role in the rapid evolution of jazz and popular music during the first half of the 20th century. Buttons And Bows 6. He was a larger-than-life personality who could leap from earnest sentimentality to outright mockery in the next breath, or take a lightweight novelty tune and make it far more novel Fats Waller Stomp - Fats Waller - Fascinating Rhythm Vol.1 (CD) a few verbal and musical touches. Ain't That Hot? Come To Baby, Do!
Mouth & MacNeal - You-Kou-La-Le-Lou-Pie / Guía Tu Vida Por Amor (Vinyl), One Less Set Of Footsteps, Joy To The World - Various - Have A Very Bass Christmas (Cassette), Lothlórien, My Destiny (Radio Edit) - Delinquent Feat. KCat - My Destiny (CD)