FATS WALLER by Maurice & Anthony Calabrese Waller


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The son of the stride pianist who became a famous (but undercompensated) composer and a (reluctant) singer-entertainer offers a slightly sentimental, very anecdotal biography--an unnecessary but pleasant enough supplement to Kirkeby's Ain't Misbehavin' (1975). Waller fils and Calabrese are best with the young Fats in Harlem, the large boy in the short pants who defied his puritanical father by sidling down to the movie house to listen to--and then take over--the organ. Fats, who died at 39 in 1944, ""made a career out of satisfying his senses,"" and there's no attempt here to minimize his scrapes with jail (a result of his ""amnesia"" about alimony for first wife Edith), the bottle (the ""encourager""), or extra-curricular women. But, overall, this is a tribute, emphasizing the song-hits (""Ain't Misbehavin',"" ""Honeysuckle Rose""), the rascally ad-libs on record and film, and the keyboard camaraderie with the likes of Bill (Count) Basie, Willie the Lion Smith, and, especially, mentor James P. Johnson. And the general use of ""Dad"" instead of ""Fats"" sets the tone for an undramatic but unembarrassingly fond mix of family chat (said Fats to barely teen-aged Maurice: ""Let me know when you're ready--and I'll get you laid"") and jazz-history rehash.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1977
Publisher: Macmillan