Personnel: Fats Waller (vocals, piano, organ); Fats Waller; Clarence Williams (vocals, kazoo); June Cole Orchestra (vocals, bass instrument); Joe Sims, Anna Jones, Sister Odette Jackson, Carroll C Tate, David Martin, David Martin , Alta Browne, Maude "May Crane" Mills, Carroll C. Tate, Odette Jackson, Alberta Hunter, Maude Mills, Andy Razaf (vocals); Bobby Leecan (guitar); John Mitchell (banjo); Howard Nelson, Howard Nelson (violin); Don Redman (clarinet, alto saxophone); Coleman Hawkins (clarinet, tenor saxophone); Addington Major, Louis Metcalf (clarinet); Charlie Holmes (alto saxophone); Joe Smith , The Russell Smith Orchestra, Joe "Fox" Smith , Russell Smith (trumpet); Johnny Dunn & His Band, Tom Morris , Jabbo Smith, Johnny Dunn (cornet); Herb Flemming, Benny Morton's All Stars, Jimmy Archey (trombone); Fletcher Henderson (piano); Joe Watts (upright bass); Eddie King (drums); Juanita Stinette Chappelle, Caroline Johnson , Sister Ethel Grainger, Hazel Meyers, Bertha Powell, Rosa Henderson, Sara Martin, Porter Grainger (vocals); Perry Bradford (spoken vocals); Charlie Dixon (banjo); Bert Howell (violin); Clarence Todd (kazoo); Garvin Bushell (clarinet, bassoon, alto saxophone); Buster Bailey (clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone); Cootie Williams, Tommy Ladnier (trumpet); Jimmy Harrison, Charlie Irvis (trombone); James P. Johnson (piano); Kaiser Marshall (drums); Justin Ring (wood block, percussion); Lousiana Sugar Babes, Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra, Jimmy Johnson & His Orchestra, Johnny Dunn's Original Jazz Hounds, Thomas Waller with Morris' Hot Babies.
Additional personnel: Tom Morris (cornet); Benny Morton (trombone); Clarence Williams, Coleman Hawkins, Don Redman, Fletcher Henderson, Jabbo Smith, Jimmy Archey, Alberta Hunter, Andy Razaf.
Audio Remasterer: Ted Kendall.
Liner Note Author: Ted Kendall.
Recording information: Camden, NJ (10/21/1922-06/18/1928); Long Island City, NY (10/21/1922-06/18/1928); New York, NY (10/21/1922-06/18/1928).
Director: Fletcher Henderson.
Arranger: Don Redman.
For decades Fats Waller's recorded legacy has found its way into the lives of jazz heads and regular folks throughout the world, most often in piecemeal fashion through "best-of" collections that fixate upon his most popular recordings from the 1930s and early '40s, or in mammoth "complete editions" inevitably peppered with gaps and flaws. "Messin' Around with the Blues" is volume one in JSP's Complete Recorded Works of Thomas Fats Waller. Spread across four compact discs, one-hundred vintage tracks map nearly every single recording session that Waller participated in between October 21, 1922 and June 18, 1928. Sound is good throughout, and some of the early pressings sound much better than they did when reissued by the Classics label. This comes very close to being the best early Fats Waller reissue project the world has ever seen. Beginning with his first two piano solos, JSP traces young Waller's progress with almost unprecedented thoroughness, following him from date to date as he accompanies vocalists (most notably Alberta Hunter and Rosa Henderson) and comedians (Clarence Williams and Clarence Todd); sits in with bands led by Fletcher Henderson, Thomas Morris, Jimmy Johnson and Johnny Dunn; convenes with Johnson, cornetist Jabbo Smith and multi-reed man Garvin Bushell to make chamber jazz records under the name of the Louisiana Sugar Babes, and establishes himself as the world's very first jazz organist. The rarest material presented here is so uncommon that even lifelong Wallerites might never have caught it before; on May 17, 1927, Waller played organ behind four sermons viscerally delivered by the Rev. J.C. Burnett, assisted in holy roller style by Sisters Ethel Grainger and Odette Jackson. These recordings pick up where Waller and church ladies Alta Browne and Bertha Powell left off with their solemn little pair of sacred songs recorded for Gennett in April 1926. JSP's phenomenal early Waller anthology is outstanding and utterly essential. The only serious omissions appear to be two sides -- "Chloe" and "When You're with Somebody Else" -- recorded with Shilkret's Rhyth-Melodists in early March 1928. How or why these tracks didn't make it onto this otherwise stunningly complete overview of early Fats Waller is anybody's guess. Taken together, the eight CDs comprising volumes one and two in JSP's Complete Recorded Works of Fats Waller are major achievements deserving of highest honors. All that's needed now is for someone to issue every known player piano roll by Waller, Luckey Roberts and James P. Johnson. The rolls need to be played back using the Yamaha Disklavier, a high-tech instrument that was employed to rescue Jelly Roll Morton's piano rolls from oblivion. When this occurs, humanity will at last have taken decisive steps towards paying worthy homage to the Harlem pianists whose music played a decisive role in the rapid evolution of jazz and popular music during the first half of the 20th century. ~ arwulf arwulf