In 1997 the Camden record label released ...Misbehavin', a Fats Waller collection that lives up to its title while perfectly conveying the man's musical genius and rascally temperament. It is an assignment that many reissue labels have grappled with -- few have managed to do it without so much as a single less-than-wonderful selection. Most of these performances date from the closing years of Waller's abbreviated life, with a handful of earlier sides chucked in like peppercorns. Based upon a time span, then, of March 1, 1929 through January 23, 1943, this 24-track sampler works fairly well as a casual career retrospective, even without touching upon his amazingly productive activities during the rest of the '20s and the glorious accomplishments of his little Rhythm band during the mid-'30s. Those recordings are easily accessible now thanks to the efforts of devoted chronological reissue labels like Classics and JSP. Thomas Waller's was a complex and multifaceted personality. What you get here is the very essence of his rowdier and most entertaining self, including the devil-may-care hedonism of "The Joint is Jumpin'" and "Tain't Nobody's Bizness if I Do," the alcoholic nonchalance of "Abercrombie Had a Zombie," and the bad boy outspokenness of "Buckin' the Dice," "Hey! Stop Kissin' My Sister," "Twenty-Four Robbers," "Your Feets Too Big," "You Must Be Losing Your Mind," "You're a Square from Delaware," and "You Run Your Mouth and I'll Run My Business." The instrumentals are among his very finest. These include piano solos ("Keepin' out of Mischief Now," "Handful of Keys," "Carolina Shout," "Alligator Crawl," and the marijuana-inspired "Viper's Drag") and a small wealth of ensemble jams ranging from the gutsy 1929 vintage "Minor Drag" through the mature swing of "Mamacita," "Pantin' in the Panther Room" and Leonard Feather's delightful opus "Scram." These border upon a pre-bop early modernity that Waller didn't live long enough to fully participate in. With hundreds of songs and many dozens of variable quality collections in his massive discography, let it be known that ...Misbehavin' would be an outstanding choice for anyone seeking a good strong belt of vintage Fats Waller so as to better comprehend the punchier aspects of his colorful and entertaining personality. A great place to begin, and a dependable enclave to revisit.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf