1937 was an excellent year for Fats Waller, and volume twelve in his complete recordings as reissued in 1995 by the Classics Chronological Series focuses upon a relatively small portion of the year in question. Consisting of records cut between March 18 and June 11, 1937, this particular stash of goodies is remarkably satisfying, especially as 10 of the 22 performances are instrumental, which is an unusually high percentage given the fact that the men at Victor records exploited Waller's vocal talents with a vengeance once it became clear that his unorthodox delivery sold a lot of records. Waller the singer is at his very best on "Spring Cleaning," "You've Been Reading My Mail," "To a Sweet and Pretty Thing" and "Sweet Heartache"; he handles "Old Plantation" with dignity and ends it with a decisive invitation to "Drop the plow!" The wordless renditions of "Boo-Hoo," "The Love Bug Will Bite You," and the bluesy "San Anton" are remarkably satisfying. Fats Waller and His Rhythm as heard here included trumpeter Herman Autrey, reedman Gene Sedric, guitarist Al Casey, bassist Charles Turner, and drummer Wilmore Slick Jones, who takes a tidy vibraphone solo on the group's four-and-one-half-minute treatment of Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose." The other version of "Honeysuckle," backed with a superb take on the "Blues," comes from a "Jam Session at Victor" whereby Waller sat in with trumpeter Bunny Berigan, trombonist Tommy Dorsey, guitarist supreme Dick McDonough, and one of Eddie Condon's preferred drummers, George Wettling. This then is an invigorating ride through nearly three months of studio recording activity in the fast life of Thomas Fats Waller, and anyone lucky enough to glimpse a copy ought to pounce on it at once.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf