A One Man Show – Fats Waller
Here’s my arrangement of “Ain’t Misbehavin'” which is recognised as one of the great songs of the 20th Century.
I have created and composed a solo to further explore this classic song.
Fats Waller, the song’s composer, was a larger than life character.
He was a formidable pianist and songwriter of the first order.
His output of songs easily ranks with those of Lennon and McCartney, Rogers & Hammerstein, Duke Ellington or any of the greats.
Waller is attributed with over 400 songs but it’s thought that he’d written an additional 500 songs that he’d sold to other people where he wasn’t credited as the composer.
Fats Waller’s life and career is really interesting and makes for great reading.
I really enjoy reading biographies of great musicians and finding out what made them tick and what it takes to make a great and successful musician.
The Coleman Hawkins Interview
Coleman Hawkins, the great saxophone master and pioneer, was interviewed late in his life and the interview was released on a double record set titled “Coleman Hawkins Talks”.
The recording runs for about 2 hours. It is packed with invaluable stories and anecdotes coming from one of America’s music giants.
Hawkins observed first hand many of the big events in music of the time and he personally knew and played with most of the important players.
Hawkins was a close friend of Fats Waller and talked about Fats Waller at length on the recording which gives us a great insight insight into who Fats was.
At one point Hawkins says that “Fats was funny, he even looked funny. You just looked at him and you’d start to laugh”.
He then talked about how Fats could knock up and write a song in 10 minutes.
He also said “Fats was a show all on his own”.
Could Fats Seriously Play Beethoven??
There’s a great documentary called “This Joint Is Jumping” (which is a reference to one of Waller’s songs) that was made in the 1980’s. I’ve posted the YT video below if anyone wants to check it out.
A time when there were still a lot of people living that knew him so there are plenty of first hand recollections and anecdotes.
His son Maurice is featured in the documentary and in describing his father says “my father lit up a room when he walked in”.
He was the life of any party and made people happy and feel good.
Maurice also recounts how his father believed in the 3 big “B’s” Bach, Beethoven & Brahms.
Here is my post on the 2nd Trinity Guitar Syllabus “Waltz” exploring Jazz influence and Fats Waller.
He tells how Fats wanted to do a serious Classical concert but it flopped because the public perceived him as something like a comedian who played novelty songs like “You’re Feet’s Too Big”.
I would have loved to have seen Fats Waller in concert doing Bach, Beethoven & Brahms!
The Piano And The Silent Film Movement
America has an incredible tradition when it comes to the piano.
There was always plenty of work for a good pianist and even in some ways that would surprise us today.
Scott Joplin, the composer of “The Entertainer” and called the King of Ragtime, actually began his career playing in brothels to give him steady work…
Joplin played, the girls danced and the clients made their choice.
Silent movies were another source of employment for pianists and Fats Waller was employed by the Lincoln Theatre in Harlem to play incidental music to enhance the movie.
It required a great deal of skill and imagination to come up with just the right and appropriate music to accompany the story on the screen.
The “Talkies” (that’s what they called movies with sound) ended the need for pianists playing at the cinema.
Subsequent generations of American Jazz pianists would be prominent in creating new directions and extending musical possibilities.
Pianists like Bud Powell & Theloniuos Monk were highly unique and laid down the tracks for future innovations which would be picked up and run with by the next generation of players like Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock & Keith Jarrett.
There was another strain of piano players who seem to have followed the showy side of the instrument which a natural born entertainer like Fats developed.
Ray Charles, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis made the piano an instrument of huge entertainment and they in turn influenced Elton John who was studying Classical piano at the Royal Academy in London but gave his formal studies away to pursue a career in popular music.
“Ain’t Misbehavin'” is a quality song and I really enjoyed putting this arrangement together.
I’ve written it out also so if you’d like to learn my arrangement let me know.