Jazz Life and Times: Fats Waller (Jazz life & times)

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It's possible he composed many more popular songs and sold them to other performers when times were tough.

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Waller started playing the piano at the age of six, and became a professional organist aged By the age of 18 he was a recording artist. He died from pneumonia, aged One descendant is professional football player Darren Waller , who is Fats' great-grandson.

His mother instructed him in his youth, and he attended other music lessons, paying for them by working in a grocery store. He was the prize pupil and later the friend and colleague of the stride pianist James P. Waller became one of the most popular performers of his era, finding critical and commercial success in the United States and Europe. He was also a prolific songwriter, and many songs he wrote or co-wrote are still popular, such as " Honeysuckle Rose ", [11] " Ain't Misbehavin' " and " Squeeze Me ". Fellow pianist and composer Oscar Levant dubbed Waller "the black Horowitz ".

Machlin comments that the Singer conjecture has "considerable [historical] justification".

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The anonymous sleeve notes on the RCA Victor album Handful of Keys state that Waller copyrighted over songs, many of them co-written with his closest collaborator, Andy Razaf. After a balance had been taken, we'd just need one take to make a side, unless it was a kind of difficult number. On one occasion his playing seemed to have put him at risk of injury. Waller was kidnapped in Chicago leaving a performance in Four men bundled him into a car and took him to the Hawthorne Inn, owned by Al Capone.

Waller was ordered inside the building, and found a party in full swing. Gun to his back, he was pushed towards a piano, and told to play. A terrified Waller realized he was the "surprise guest" at Capone's birthday party, and took comfort that the gangsters did not intend to kill him.

It is rumored that Waller stayed at the Hawthorne Inn for three days and left very drunk, extremely tired, and had earned thousands of dollars in cash from Capone and other party-goers as tips. Louis Blues " and his own composition, "Lenox Avenue Blues". Although he recorded with various groups, including Morris's Hot Babes , Fats Waller's Buddies one of the earliest multiracial groups to record , and McKinney's Cotton Pickers , his most important contribution to the Harlem stride piano tradition was a series of solo recordings of his own compositions: "Handful of Keys", "Smashing Thirds", "Numb Fumblin'", and "Valentine Stomp" After sessions with Ted Lewis , Jack Teagarden and Billy Banks ' Rhythmakers , he began in May the voluminous series of recordings with a small band known as Fats Waller and his Rhythm.

He enjoyed success touring the United Kingdom and Ireland in the s, appearing on one of the first BBC television broadcasts on September 30, He appeared in several feature films and short subject films, most notably Stormy Weather in , which was released July 21, just months before his death. Waller performed Bach organ pieces for small groups on occasion. He influenced many pre- bebop jazz pianists; Count Basie and Erroll Garner have both revived his hit songs. In addition to his playing, Waller was known for his many humorous quips during his performances. Between and the end of , Waller recorded a series of pipe organ solo records.

These represent the first time syncopated jazz compositions were performed on a full-sized church organ.

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Later in Waller's career, he had the distinction of becoming the first African-American songwriter to compose a hit Broadway musical that was seen by a mostly white audience. Broadway producer Richard Kollmar 's hiring of Waller to create the musical Early to Bed was recalled in a essay about Waller by John McWhorter , an American academic and linguist who is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University , where he teaches linguistics, American studies, philosophy, and music history.

He is the author of a number of books on language and on race relations.

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Even as late as , the idea of a black composer writing the score for a standard-issue white show was unheard of. When Broadway performer and producer Richard Kollmar began planning Early to Bed , his original idea was for Waller to perform in it as a comic character, not to write the music. Waller was, after all, as much a comedian as a musician. Waller's double duty as composer and performer was short-lived. This was typical of Waller, who often sold melodies for quick cash when in his cups.

Waller came to his senses the next day, but Kollmar decided that his drinking habits made him too risky a proposition for eight performances a week. Six months after the premiere of Early to Bed , it was still playing in a Broadway theater; at that point newspapers reported Waller's premature death. In Hatch divorced Waller. Albans, Queens , a New York City community with racially restrictive covenants. Waller contracted pneumonia and died on December 15, , while traveling aboard the famous cross-country train the Super Chief near Kansas City, Missouri.

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His final recording session was with an interracial group in Detroit , Michigan , that included white trumpeter Don Hirleman. Waller was returning to New York City from Los Angeles, after the smash success of Stormy Weather , and after a successful engagement at the Zanzibar Room , in Santa Monica, California , during which he had fallen ill.

The show and, Nell Carter , won Tony Awards. The show opened at the Longacre Theatre and ran for more than performances. Recordings of Fats Waller were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame which is a special Grammy Award established in to honour recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have "qualitative or historical significance".

Probably the most talented pianist to keep the music of "Fats" Waller alive in the years after his death was Ralph Sutton , who focused his career on playing stride piano. Sutton was a great admirer of Waller, saying "I've never heard a piano man swing any better than Fats — or swing a band better than he could.

I never get tired of him. Fats has been with me from the first, and he'll be with me as long as I live. Johnson alive. In , as an year-old, Janis put together a band of aging jazz greats, consisting of James P. Source: [37].

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. His singing, too, was more accessible.

Fats Waller, His Life & Times: Keith Nichols

The voice - a high baritone - may not have been conventionally beautiful but it was clear, and uncluttered, and always in tune. It was gravelly only when its owner wanted it to be, and it always sang recognisable words; no scatting. And of course Waller the pianist had one signal advantage over Armstrong the trumpeter.

He could sing and play simultaneously.

His piano sparkled, and if Fats's music could hardly match Louis's for intensity that may not have hurt it with the customers. People knew Waller wanted them to be happy. The 'Milkman' song is another long-line melody but one that bounces rather than glides. It's one of Waller's gentler comic turns; he doesn't have to inject humour because it's there already. The lyric is by Johnny Burke, a master of discreetly balanced whimsy, and the song tells how the singer is being willingly badgered by the local tradesmen into proposing marriage. Like many songs of the s it takes pride in spinning lightly witty variations on a romantic theme.

It says that being in love is a serious matter worth being funny about. Waller's gleeful performance says the same about the business of singing and playing a love-song. The point is worth making since the standard line is that Waller despised the songs he was forced to perform and showed it by exaggerating the lyrics in his singing and deflating them with his patter, all the while reshaping the music far beyond its intrinsic worth.

This is a neat combination of tricks if you can manage it, and doubtless he did from time to time. But one can't generalise. Maybe he just got carried away.

Fats Waller - Grammy Jazz Pianist (Classic Jazz Records) [All the Best Original Jazz Music]

One of his most sardonic comments - 'I wonder what the poor people are doing tonight', with its wry sequel, 'wish I was doing it with them' - crops up in his performance instrumental only of a song he certainly respected: the spiritual 'Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child'. The biographers tell us that for most of his life Fats did feel like a motherless child.

Born in , he adored his mother, who spoilt him and whom he lost at an early age. He had an uneasy relationship with his father, a Harlem preacher who distrusted secular entertainment but none the less had a musical influence on his son; some of Waller's profoundest playing was done on the organ. He was a successful musician and composer by the end of the s and a recording and radio star from the mids. He made big money and spent it , and did time in jail for non-payment of alimony. Playing the American South, he commented bitterly on the audiences who applauded him and then barred him from their hotels.

He said that many black musicians 'went South by Greyhound and returned by bloodhound'.

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It's conceivable that he wasn't even too thrilled by his weight. He had a good-time image in work and in life, but he was warned that his eating and more especially his drinking might kill him, and eventually they did. He died, 50 years ago next week, on a train from Los Angeles to New York; of pneumonia, but it would not have got him if his system had not been so thoroughly abused.

The familiar pictures of Fats, all derby hat and roguish grin, suggest a man laughing compulsively and therefore defensively, not at music but at life. Which doesn't mean the laughter wasn't genuine. On his recording of 'Until the Real Thing Comes Along', a middling-good song, he interrupts the musical flow of protestations about what he'll do for love with a quickfire 'You want me to rob a bank, well I won't'. It bubbles up out of nowhere, and he gets back to singing without a break in rhythm.