Fats Waller recorded hundreds and hundreds of songs between 1922 and 1943. Since the introduction of compact disc technology during the 1980s there has arisen a veritable forest of Waller compilations through which some may find it difficult to navigate. Not everyone seeks to collect and collate his complete works. If you're looking for an excellent and very digestible sampler it might be wise to obtain Fats Waller & His Rhythm, Vol. 1: 1934-1936, a single-disc, 22-track collection released in 2005 on EPM Musique's Jazz Archives series that captures the essence of this little band's lively and heartwarming approach to swing music. Waller swiftly gained popularity by tampering with Tin Pan Alley love songs while composing attractive melodies and infectious jam tunes that have never lost their potency and never, ever will. Whoever selected the titles on this collection did an unusually good job of it. "You're Not the Only Oyster in the Stew," "I Ain't Got Nobody," and "Dream Man" are three of the very best recordings this group ever made. Fortunately, the producers chose to tap into the ecstatic rowdiness of the "Twelfth Street Rag," "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie," "Swingin' Them Jingle Bells," and "I Got Rhythm," the one track that finds Waller's usual sextet surrounded with extra players to form a big band. Best of all perhaps are "Paswonky" and "Black Raspberry Jam," a pair of front burner instrumentals garnished with Waller's clever commentary. There are many different ways to study and appreciate the genius of Fats Waller. He was a gifted soloist, composer, organist, pianist, and vocalist. This collection, by carefully focusing upon his brilliant approach to bandleading, wins high marks as a sensible choice for those who need a good belt of Harlem stride piano and small band swing to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.
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