One fine day, Fats Waller ambled into a New York studio and knocked out a stack of a dozen 16" transcription discs for Muzak-Associated Transcriptions. (Can you imagine anyone pulling that off so casually today in the span of a few hours?) The transcriptions are mostly medleys of many of Waller's tunes and cover versions that he was recording for Victor, interspersed with the fat man's inimitable comments and verbal mugging. While Rudy Powell turns up on clarinet on the first medley and on alto sax on the second, Waller goes it alone everywhere else, turning out seemingly perfect takes every time. As the vast bulk of Waller recordings of the '30s were with his nifty combo, this is an unusual opportunity to hear Waller on his own at this time -- and, needless to say, he generates plenty of rhythm without any help. Most valuable are some of his solo piano compositions, like "African Ripples" with its strikingly Gershwinesque harmonies, the classic "Handful of Keys," and a fantasia called "Clothesline Ballet." Along with the more commercial medleys, which run between five and a half and seven and a half minutes in length, there are three short solo piano compositions; among these, the super stride workout "Zonky" is only a minute and 41 seconds in length, and "Alligator Crawl" anticipates Duke Ellington's "Pitter Panther Patter." The transfers are subdued but thankfully not distorted, with mostly quiet transcription surfaces.
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AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell