Looking for the perfect Fats Waller album? This just might be it. With the exception of eight titles recorded in May and August of 1934, these are the earliest recordings to be issued under the banner of Fats Waller & His Rhythm. By now, Waller had begun to settle into his role as pianist, vocalist, and bandleader, using his own vigorous presentational formula that was still fresh and stimulating. The band he used on the 28th of September was slightly expanded by the inclusion of trombonist Floyd O'Brien and clarinetist Mezz Mezzrow. On November 7th, Eugene Sedric was back playing tenor and Bill Coleman had replaced Herman Autrey as trumpeter. It is fascinating to ponder which numbers Waller sang relatively straight -- "Let's Pretend There's a Moon" comes out as a delightful love song -- and which were instead subjected to his mischievous manhandling, like "If It Isn't Love," a tune he initially refused to record. The material recorded on January 5, 1935, includes instrumental flip sides to complement the vocal versions of "Baby Brown" and "I'm a Hundred Per Cent for You." The lovely "Night Wind" was Waller's recording debut on the Hammond organ, an instrument he pioneered after making a number of jazz pipe organ recordings between the years 1926 and 1929. He was in fact the very first jazz organist. This part of the Fats Waller chronology just happens to contain some of the greatest records he ever made. Every single song is perfectly presented by his excellent little ensemble. When combined with four of his very best piano solos from November of 1934, the results constitute an even better choice for both Fats Waller initiates and longtime fans than any number of "greatest-hits" collections. This rewarding package of essential Waller performances is strongly recommended.
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