Fats Waller

Yacht Club Swing & Other Radio Rareties

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Fats Waller made hundreds of studio recordings. He also left in his wake a stream of broadcast air checks from 1938 and 1940. These were issued on vinyl LPs during the mid-'80s by the Giants of Jazz, Radiola, Legend and Sandy Hook labels. Jasmine's 1999 release Yacht Club Swing & Other Radio Rarities corresponds roughly to GOJ's first LP volume of Fats Waller Live at the Yacht Club; its 1985 Sandy Hook LP reissue The Jugglin' Jive of Fats Waller; and to some extent two 1996 CD editions: Live at the Yacht Club on the Mr. Music label and Yacht Club Swing 1938 on EPM Musique/Jazz Archives. The broadcasts heard on this Jasmine compilation were made on July 16 as well as October 14 and 18, 1938. What could be finer than catching Fats Waller and His Rhythm -- Herman Autrey, Gene Sedric, Al Casey, Cedric Wallace and Slick Jones -- in live performance at the Yacht Club, a fashionable night spot that existed on 52nd St. just off the Great White Way? The key word here is "white." What makes the October 14, 1938 portion difficult to stomach is the attitude of the announcer, an unsavory, tiresome, boorish, overbearing individual whose racist mentality soured the entire broadcast. Seldom has such excellent live music been sullied by an emcee this vulgar and stupid. What makes it so annoying is the tactless nitwit's use of the word "boy"; he calls Fats Waller "boy" almost constantly, repeating the word nervously, almost tauntingly, laughing nastily through his nose and even attempting to make the pianist appear ignorant and foolish. Waller, no stranger to racism and composer of the song "Black and Blue," handles the chump with patience and unsinkable good humor while encouraging his little Rhythm band to swing out for the patrons of the Yacht Club. Thomas Waller, for all his clowning around, was a sensitive, well-read and educated man; a classically trained pianist, gifted composer and skilled bandleader. Hearing him endure what comes to resemble indignity and verbal abuse is a sobering lesson in the human condition.

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