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Misbehavin' Badly

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Album Review

In 2006, the Giant Steps label released something called Misbehavin Badly on V-Disc, lumping together two 1929 recordings by Fats Waller and His Buddies and four by Fats Waller and His Rhythm with all of his V-Discs (cut in 1943 in order to improve the morale of Armed Forces personnel), "That Ain't Right," the notorious blues duet with Ada Brown taken from the soundtrack of the motion picture Stormy Weather, and that cheery wartime ode to metal recycling, "Get Some Cash for Your Trash." Even if this jumbled conglomeration works in the same way that dozens of other Fats Waller compilations have, by entertaining casual listeners and maybe even tempting some of them to learn more about the man behind the piano (and Hammond organ), the title of the collection might be misconstrued, as only 13 of the 21 tracks originated on V-Discs. Certainly, with both "The Reefer Song" and "This Is So Nice It Must Be Illegal" on board, the mischief is here as promised, especially with the earlier recordings forming a mini-history of Waller's famous penchant for cutting up and raising a ruckus. Most importantly, the increased availability of these V-Discs is an encouraging development, as Waller poured all of his complex emotions into these solo performances, misbehaving but also baring his soul with utmost sincerity during his dead serious interpretations of Duke Ellington's "Solitude" and the traditional American Negro spiritual "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child."


Born: 21 May 1904 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s

Not only was Fats Waller one of the greatest pianists jazz has ever known, he was also one of its most exuberantly funny entertainers -- and as so often happens, one facet tends to obscure the other. His extraordinarily light and flexible touch belied his ample physical girth; he could swing as hard as any pianist alive or dead in his classic James P. Johnson-derived stride manner, with a powerful left hand delivering the octaves and tenths in a tireless, rapid, seamless stream. Waller also pioneered...
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