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The 45 tracks on these two CDs come from a nine-month period that saw Fats Waller reaching the height of his popularity, emphasizing his talents as a singer of light popular songs. While many of the tunes heard here haven't endured, Waller's treatment of them certainly does. They bubble with infectious good humor, a matchless charm, a superb sense of swing, and a breadth of spirit that put Waller on the same plateau as Louis Armstrong among jazz entertainers. He could convey both bemusement and joy, making it clear it was possible to be happy in more ways than one at the same time. Waller was a great jazz pianist even when he was playing decorative fills or a chorus. His piano and occasional celesta shine here, as do the members of his regular band, especially Herman Autrey on trumpet and Rudy Powell (and, later, Gene Sedric) on clarinet and tenor, complementing Waller perfectly and expanding on the good spirits. On four tracks, the Rhythm expand from their usual five pieces to a big band, including a version of "I've Got Rhythm" with brilliant stride piano and high-note trumpet work. --Stuart Broomer
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