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RE: [RedHotJazz] Fats Waller was shopworn sentimentalism

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  • Bob Mates
    Hi, Dave: You have a good point: perhaps, Fats was a victim of his own persona; had to live up to his image. When that happens, you try to be funny. Of
    Message 1 of 9 , Sep 4, 2008
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      Hi, Dave: You have a good point: perhaps, Fats was a victim of
      his own persona; had to live up to his image. When that happens,
      you try to be funny. Of course, when you try, you usually
      aren't.
      This whole area of discussion about artists, trapped by their
      public persona, is an interesting one. Nadine Kohodas, in her
      biography of Dinah Washington, says that, in her later years,
      (seems funny to write that phrase, since Dinah died at age 38),
      she tried to live up to her nickname, "the queen". It changed
      her personality, and it made her spend so much money, that when
      she died, she was deep in debt. As for Fats, I've read that, by
      the end of his life, he was getting tired of the grind of
      touring. Perhaps, if he'd lived, he would have devoted more time
      to writing Broadway shows, which he really enjoyed. Perhaps,
      too, as the musical tastes had changed, he wouldn't have been
      expected to be funny all of the time, and you would have heard a
      lot of different stuff. Who knows? What I do know is that it's
      tragic and sad to think that he died at the ripe old age of 39.
      I've heard about the JSP reissues. They're on my list, after I
      get the two Box sets of pre-war blues I want.
      A couple final points. Fats made about 600 sides; 400 or so with
      his "Rhythm." Not all of them were good. You'd have to expect
      that, though, with that volume of work.
      There's a good book about Louis Jordan, LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL.
      Apparently, Louis was not the easiest guy to work with. He was
      an absolute perfectionist. He was also not the easiest guy to be
      married to, having had about 4 wives. However, I happen to love
      his recordings. They're funny in many cases, and they're great,
      musically.
      I've heard of Bob Howard, but not Putney Dandridge. I'll have to
      look for him.
      Well, this has certainly been a minor book, hasn't it? Thanks for
      reading this, and take care. Bob
    • Tommer
      Message 2 of 9 , Sep 4, 2008
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        --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, Bob Mates <bluesbob@...> wrote:
        >
        > Hi, Dave: You have a good point: perhaps, Fats was a victim of
        > his own persona; had to live up to his image. When that happens,
        > you try to be funny. Of course, when you try, you usually
        > aren't.
        > This whole area of discussion about artists, trapped by their
        > public persona, is an interesting one. Nadine Kohodas, in her
        > biography of Dinah Washington, says that, in her later years,
        > (seems funny to write that phrase, since Dinah died at age 38),
        > she tried to live up to her nickname, "the queen". It changed
        > her personality, and it made her spend so much money, that when
        > she died, she was deep in debt. As for Fats, I've read that, by
        > the end of his life, he was getting tired of the grind of
        > touring. Perhaps, if he'd lived, he would have devoted more time
        > to writing Broadway shows, which he really enjoyed. Perhaps,
        > too, as the musical tastes had changed, he wouldn't have been
        > expected to be funny all of the time, and you would have heard a
        > lot of different stuff. Who knows? What I do know is that it's
        > tragic and sad to think that he died at the ripe old age of 39.
        > I've heard about the JSP reissues. They're on my list, after I
        > get the two Box sets of pre-war blues I want.
        > A couple final points. Fats made about 600 sides; 400 or so with
        > his "Rhythm." Not all of them were good. You'd have to expect
        > that, though, with that volume of work.
        > There's a good book about Louis Jordan, LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL.
        > Apparently, Louis was not the easiest guy to work with. He was
        > an absolute perfectionist. He was also not the easiest guy to be
        > married to, having had about 4 wives. However, I happen to love
        > his recordings. They're funny in many cases, and they're great,
        > musically.
        > I've heard of Bob Howard, but not Putney Dandridge. I'll have to
        > look for him.
        > Well, this has certainly been a minor book, hasn't it? Thanks for
        > reading this, and take care. Bob
        >
      • David Brown
        Red Allen recorded Take Me Back To My Boots And Saddle and On The Beach At Bali-Bali and other such insubstantial and inappropriate material. But he made
        Message 3 of 9 , Sep 4, 2008
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          Red Allen recorded 'Take Me Back To My Boots And Saddle' and 'On The Beach
          At Bali-Bali' and other such insubstantial and inappropriate material. But
          he made superb music out of them.

          Wingie, who brought out the dark side of ostensibly the lightest novelty,
          also delivered music of sombre and sincere beauty. 'Cottage On The Moon', a
          minor but fine pop song, is totally enhanced. Even 'The Good Ship Lollipop'
          becomes good jazz with Wingie making the best of it and not falling into
          nudge wink parody.

          But no other musician approached the vast factory output of Waller and it is
          a wonder that so much is of such high quality for mere pop music.

          Dave




          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • John O
          ... I agree, the tongue in cheek vocals are evident on his earliest sides as a singer, like the great I m Crazy Bout My Baby / Draggin My Heart Around
          Message 4 of 9 , Sep 5, 2008
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            --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, "David Brown" <johnhaleysims@...>
            wrote:
            >
            > With Fats the parody is not so much of the trite
            > material as of Fats' own public personna.

            I agree, the "tongue in cheek" vocals are evident on his earliest
            sides as a singer, like the great "I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby"/"Draggin'
            My Heart Around" (1931)--I don't think he's mocking these tunes,
            composed by himself and Alex Hill. However, I feel a session of six
            Fats originals on June 8, 1936 is somewhat marred by his continuous
            spoken asides.

            In general, he does exaggerate the vocal eccentricities in proportion
            with a song's absurdity... Where a more conventional singer might
            actually attempt to put over "Eep Ipe, I Wanna Piece Of Pie", I think
            a more sensitive artist would instinctively demolish it, as Fats did.

            After his various important works of the '20s (in 1929 Louis and Duke
            each had sessions of entirely Fats material), Waller and His Rhythm
            was a depression-era small band, maintained through the big band
            era... the dross perhaps a means justifying great ends: originals,
            hard-swingers, and band instrumentals, the solo piano sides of 1934,
            1937, and 1941, and any record on which Fats plays the organ.

            His transcriptions show different sides of Fats (as on the marathon
            1935 Associated date, also the opera arias and sprituals--hear the
            wonderful "Hand Me Down My Walking Cane"--on the 1939 Lang-Worth
            discs). The London Suite marks another classic, and the V-Discs of
            1943 display a master entertainer, a master jazzman, and an artist of
            great depth, whiskey intake notwithstanding.

            Listening to CD 'The Complete Thomas "Fats" Waller and his Rhythm Vol.
            2 1935' (King Jazz KJ 115 FS)--John RT transfers, great music
            throughout, though granted I'm not scrutinizing the band's solos with
            a microscope... The first four volumes all claim JRT transfers, and I
            suspect these are unsurpassed on CD.

            I've only heard Volume 1 of the JSP boxes--the series aims to issue
            his complete commercial recordings, with all alternatives, some not
            reissued before, and a few previously unissued. Volume 1 sounds
            decent enough, yet slightly homogenized--some natural ambience lost,
            perhaps. Most of the Victors were very well recorded to begin with; I
            feel that often the best thing to do with a good transfer is to leave
            it alone.
          • Patrice Champarou
            ... From: John O To: Sent: Friday, September 05, 2008 11:23 PM Subject: [RedHotJazz] Re: Fats Waller was
            Message 5 of 9 , Sep 6, 2008
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              ----- Original Message -----
              From: "John O" <spacelights@...>
              To: <RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Friday, September 05, 2008 11:23 PM
              Subject: [RedHotJazz] Re: Fats Waller was shopworn sentimentalism


              > --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, "David Brown" <johnhaleysims@...>
              > wrote:
              >>
              >> With Fats the parody is not so much of the trite
              >> material as of Fats' own public personna.
              >
              > I agree, the "tongue in cheek" vocals are evident on his earliest
              > sides as a singer, like the great "I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby"/"Draggin'
              > My Heart Around" (1931)--I don't think he's mocking these tunes,
              > composed by himself and Alex Hill.

              Just on this, I have the same feeling about Two Sleepy People, which I find
              very moving. This is all subjective of course, but I think there is often a
              "third degree" beyond parody, something similar - to me, at least - to the
              effect produced by the great arrangements of Spike Jones on Nutcracker Suite
              or, in a completely different mood, some of his groovy Charlestons. The link
              between both is again a combination of parody and perfectionism (did someone
              happen to also mention Louis Jordan here?) but in Fat's case, I think the
              songs and arrangements in themselves are never initially meant as parodic -
              very few novelty effects, and no joking in his piano playing either), it's
              just his vocal rendition which turns some into caricatures, either
              intendedly or sometimes because he "cannot help". As if he needed to offer a
              contrast between his virtuoso piano playing and his clowning personality,
              compulsively settling a "distance" while singing something too sentimental
              which, once you get used to the jest, still reaches its aim. The great Rose
              Murphy - his best follower IMO as far as piano playing is concerned - partly
              managed to catch this, with of course a completely different approach.

              Patrice
            • David Brown
              Right. The mugging while other musicians were soloing is hard to excuse. Autrey and Sedric were decent and original players and must have been diminished.
              Message 6 of 9 , Sep 6, 2008
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                Right. The mugging while other musicians were soloing is hard to excuse.
                Autrey and Sedric were decent and original players and must have been
                diminished. Notwithstanding how tawdry the material, I believe musical
                standards must be as high as possible. Louis always took the music
                seriously. I've just been playing Lips Page Deccas and the material is the
                pits and so are the non-Lips vocals but the musical quality of Lips and the
                band in this context is stunning.

                And right, Fats could deliver a good song with sincerity. I cite 'I Believe
                In Miracles' which offers some of the greatest obligato trumpet playing on
                record. But also, as early as 1934, he destroys 'If It Isn't Love', a song
                no worse. He almost gets through 'Louisiana Fairy Tale' without subversion
                but somehow cannot resist one inane aside which totally undermines the
                tender mood he has created on this fine song. It is as if he suddenly
                remembers that he must belie the professed sentimentality.

                And right, blacks at that time had to be 'happy' for the white audience. As
                did Lips and Louis. But also Wingie and, relentlessly, Prima.

                Now was Fats' audience primarily black or white or both ?

                Dave


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • John O
                A unique example of parody and perfectionism might be Fats 1927 Whiteman Stomp with Henderson... I think you refer to the 1938 Victor Two Sleepy People ,
                Message 7 of 9 , Sep 6, 2008
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                  A unique example of "parody and perfectionism" might be Fats' 1927
                  "Whiteman Stomp" with Henderson...

                  I think you refer to the 1938 Victor "Two Sleepy People", great
                  rendition indeed; the solo V-Disc version seems far more parodic (but
                  just as effective, I think).

                  During the V-Disc session, there appears a steady (perhaps
                  unintentional?) progression into real pathos. "You're A Viper (The
                  Reefer Song)" is pure theatre, all the more surreal in that it was
                  ostensibly recorded for the military(!). Incidental and rather
                  subjective (as you say)... By the time Fats switches to electric
                  organ, he is deep in his cups, so to speak. "Solitude" I find
                  fantastic, and reminiscent of Stravinsky. "Sometimes I Feel Like A
                  Motherless Child" is downright harrowing (the spoken aside "gets me"
                  each time). Maurice Waller told the story of his father attempting to
                  record this song in London, but Fats breaking down as it reminded him
                  of his departed mother.

                  Another that comes to mind is "Dry Bones": there's fun going on, but
                  something quite serious as well (it reminds me of Armstrong on "Tight
                  Like This").

                  --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, "Patrice Champarou"
                  <patrice.champarou@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Just on this, I have the same feeling about Two Sleepy People, which
                  I find
                  > very moving. This is all subjective of course, but I think there is
                  often a
                  > "third degree" beyond parody, something similar - to me, at least -
                  to the
                  > effect produced by the great arrangements of Spike Jones on
                  Nutcracker Suite
                  > or, in a completely different mood, some of his groovy Charlestons.
                  The link
                  > between both is again a combination of parody and perfectionism (did
                  someone
                  > happen to also mention Louis Jordan here?) but in Fat's case, I
                  think the
                  > songs and arrangements in themselves are never initially meant as
                  parodic -
                  > very few novelty effects, and no joking in his piano playing
                  either), it's
                  > just his vocal rendition which turns some into caricatures, either
                  > intendedly or sometimes because he "cannot help". As if he needed to
                  offer a
                  > contrast between his virtuoso piano playing and his clowning
                  personality,
                  > compulsively settling a "distance" while singing something too
                  sentimental
                  > which, once you get used to the jest, still reaches its aim. The
                  great Rose
                  > Murphy - his best follower IMO as far as piano playing is concerned
                  - partly
                  > managed to catch this, with of course a completely different approach.
                  >
                  > Patrice
                  >
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