Re: Fats Waller was shopworn sentimentalism
- --- 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
> 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,
> 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
- 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.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, "David Brown" <johnhaleysims@...>
>I agree, the "tongue in cheek" vocals are evident on his earliest
> With Fats the parody is not so much of the trite
> material as of Fats' own public personna.
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
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
----- Original Message -----
From: "John O" <spacelights@...>
Sent: Friday, September 05, 2008 11:23 PM
Subject: [RedHotJazz] Re: Fats Waller was shopworn sentimentalism
> --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, "David Brown" <johnhaleysims@...>
>> 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.
- 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 ?
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- 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
--- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com, "Patrice Champarou"
> Just on this, I have the same feeling about Two Sleepy People, which
> very moving. This is all subjective of course, but I think there isoften a
> "third degree" beyond parody, something similar - to me, at least -to the
> effect produced by the great arrangements of Spike Jones onNutcracker Suite
> or, in a completely different mood, some of his groovy Charlestons.The link
> between both is again a combination of parody and perfectionism (didsomeone
> happen to also mention Louis Jordan here?) but in Fat's case, Ithink the
> songs and arrangements in themselves are never initially meant asparodic -
> very few novelty effects, and no joking in his piano playingeither), it's
> just his vocal rendition which turns some into caricatures, eitheroffer a
> intendedly or sometimes because he "cannot help". As if he needed to
> contrast between his virtuoso piano playing and his clowningpersonality,
> compulsively settling a "distance" while singing something toosentimental
> which, once you get used to the jest, still reaches its aim. Thegreat 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.