Fats Waller Doesn't Sing! 23 Swing Classics is an accurate title for this collection, which Nimbus assembled in 2001. A companion to Nimbus' vocal-oriented Fats Waller Sings!, this CD is entirely instrumental -- and most of the selections (which span 1927-1943) are, in fact, swing classics. The recordings that aren't quite swing fall into the classic jazz category, which means that they aren't far from swing; classic jazz is, after all, the post-Dixieland jazz that isn't quite swing but borders on it. However you categorize these performances, all of them are excellent. The acoustic piano, Waller's main instrument, is heard on most of the tracks, which range from a 1937 version of "Honeysuckle Rose" (his most famous composition) to interpretations of "In the Gloaming" in 1938 and Leonard Feather's "Scram" in 1940. But Fats Waller Doesn't Sing! also gives listeners the chance to hear him stretch out on two different organs: the pipe organ and the electric Hammond organ. While "Stompin' the Bug," "Sippi," and "Messin' Around With the Blues" are unaccompanied pipe organ performances from the late '20s, "Clarinet Marmalade" and "Swinga-Dilla Street" (both from the early '40s) find Waller sticking to the Hammond organ. And he plays the celeste on a 1935 version of Earl "Fatha" Hines' "Rosetta," although not exclusively. It should be noted that Waller's use of the organ as a jazz instrument was way ahead of its time; the seminal Jimmy Smith wasn't even born when Waller first played jazz solos on the pipe organ. It should also be noted that the sound quality on this CD is, by 78-era standards, quite good; engineer Robert Parker's digital remastering deserves major applause. Fats Waller Doesn't Sing! is enthusiastically recommended to anyone who has even a casual interest in his instrumental work.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson