When I was a kid, Saturday night was music night in our house. The four of us would gather round the dining room table, eat a hearty meal, Mum and Dad would hit the wine (and if we’d been good, maybe let us try a tiny sip) , and after we’d eaten, the stereo, warmed up by an album being played throughout the meal, would be opened up to the floor for requests.
There was one caveat: we could only request records owned by parents, none of this modern stuff my brother and I listened to. That had to stay up in our bedrooms, thank you very much.
It was on these nights that I first encountered jazz. Now, I would be no means claim to be an aficionado of the genre, I know very little indeed, but it was here that I was exposed to the likes of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and today’s featured artist.
We used to have a couple of those reclining chairs, and when I was very young, whenever a particularly piano-heavy jazz tune came on, I would move one of them into the recline position and then sit on the floor in front of it, miming playing the piano, the foot-rest acting as my keyboard.
I know, adorable, right?
I recently picked up a compilation album by today’s artist, which contains precisely none of the famous songs of his that I knew (which is pretty much why I bought it). Instead, there are 16 tracks, some of which are just terrific examples of what a genius Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller was.
Born in 1904, and shuffling off this mortal coil in 1943, Fats wrote over 400 musical compositions in his short life, including what are now considered to be old standards like “Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “Honeysuckle Rose”.
Credited to “Fats” Waller and His Rhythm, today’s album is “Handful of Keys”, and on some of these, as with most Fats’ records, you really get the feel of how it must have been in those smoky gin joints he used to perform in, not just singing but delivering his funny asides to an adoring crowd of jivers.
Here are a few choice cuts from it:
Not laughing at, Fats, laughing with, as I still do, whenever I hear this, which doesn’t feature on this album, but which I simply can’t resist posting:
And, to wrap things up, since there’s a couple of other songs mentioned on that sleeve that you might recognise, here they are: