One of our favorite Fats Waller melodies, recorded in 1942. Along with Count Basie, Waller was one of the first keyboardists to use the Hammond organ on a jazz recording, a full decade before Jimmy Smith’s Blue Note recordings popularized the form.
The Hammond was originally intended as a low-cost alternative for cash-strapped churches, but players found its sound very different from that of a pipe organ — tones an octave apart are in synch with each other, rather than the subtle variation natural to traditional organs. Ethel Smith, of no relation to Jimmy Smith, popularized the instrument with easy-listening audiences, and was called the “first lady of the organ” on albums.
Jimmy Smith played the bass lines with the organ’s pedals, and his trio established a subgenre of jazz which eventually crossed over into rhythm & blues and rock recordings.
Fats Waller was an accomplished organist, beginning his career at fourteen with a gig playing in a theater. He made jazz recordings for Victor on pipe organs in the 1920s, and was known to play Bach’s preludes and fantasies for friends.