Beginning in 1935 and continuing well into 1936, Fats Waller & His Rhythm occasionally cut two versions -- vocal and instrumental -- of the tunes they handled. This volume of the Classics Waller chronology opens with four such melodies spread over eight tracks. The effect is that of a band somewhat liberated from the time restraints of a three-minute record. During the instrumental sides the band is able to stretch out and exchange ideas without any lyrics getting in the way. Waller's vocals are delightful as ever, with his outbursts during the rowdy "Swingin' Them Jingle Bells" and repeated references to yard dogs and mutts during "I Adore You" bordering on the outrageous. Six sides cut on Christmas Eve 1936 reach even steeper heights of mischief. Waller sounds well oiled as he fricassees James P. Johnson's "Havin' a Ball," turns "One in a Million" into a riotous demand for unlimited cash, and pays hell-raising tribute to the emperor Nero as his hot little band boils over with ferocious drumming by Slick Jones. This group would make quite a number of outstanding records in 1937. Seven tracks from that year find Waller and his men doing everything they could do to make a series of Tin Pan Alley pop songs sound interesting. This relatively underappreciated segment of the Waller chronology is well worth exploring.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf