Thursday, January 07, 2010

Fats Waller: A Day At The Set (1935)

Fats Waller: A Day At The Set ( 1935) (English) Fats Waller: Een dag in de studio (1935) ( Nederlands)

A 75 years old Waller recording session at Camden NJ.
Hans Koert

A few days before Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi (USA) ( 8th of January, 1935), now 75 years ago, Fats Waller recorded in Camden New Jersey several sides for Victor. Fats Waller, who had recorded a set of solo recordings two month earlier, was scheduled to make some organ recordings on the 5th of January, 1935.

Harry Dial ( drummer in Fats Waller's Rhythm (ca 1935))

Harry Dial, who played drums in Fats Waller's Rhythm had to organize the personel to make the recordings. The next Waller recording session was planned in Camden New Jersey, where Victor had a studio in the a former church, the Trinity Baptist Church. In 1918 the building was sold to the Victor Talking Machine Company, who were impressed with the fine acoustics and wanted to use it for a recording studio. Fats Waller would play the Esley pipe organ. As Billy Taylor, who was the regularly Rhythm bass player, had found a job in the Duke Ellington orchestra, Harry Dial explained later, I visited Fats and told him that Taylor couldn't be present at the set.
Fats said: Get a bass player and I'll see you at the session". Harry Dial had learned that Charlie Turner, bass player and leader of Turner's Arcadians had lost his job at the Arcadian Ballroom and now he couldn’t find any gigs to earn money for his daily bread. Harry decided to ask Charlie Turner for the gig. On my way home I thought about Turner and, although I knew he couldn't play, not to suit me anyway, I reasoned that Fats would be playing organ and the bass perhaps wouldn't matter too much anyway, Harry Dial remembers in his book "All This Jazz About Jazz". And besides I could put a hundred dollars in Charley’s pocket, which I knew he needed badly.
Fats Waller loved to drink his whisky
The members of the band to record in Camden were: Bill Coleman on trumpet, Gene Sedric on the clarinet and tenor saxophone, Fats Waller at the Esley pipe organ, but also at the piano, Al Casey guitar, Charles Turner bass and Harry Dial on drums. The band took the train from New York to Philadelphia armed with two bottles of whisky which Fats passed around every time he wanted a drink,
Bill Coleman remembers in his book "Trumpet Story". When they were in Philadelphia he bought two more bottles of whisky before they left for the short journey to Camden.
At the set, Eli Oberstein, who was the director of the recording session, was not very happy with the split up rhythm session, as he had expected that Waller would have brought his regular rhythm section with Billy Taylor, Al Casey and Harry Dial. However, Harry Dial says, we made the recording session and I think "Obie" purposely played the bass down, or kept it from coming through as I might have.
The Trinity Baptist Church of Camden - a famous Victor studio during the 1920s and 1930s.
Bill Coleman remembers that he was fascinated by the fact that Fats played all tunes by heart, although it were all compositions selected by the Victor Recording Company. He had not seen any of them before they were given to him in the studio. Before each number was recorded, Fats would run it down on the piano and then we would go over it a couple of times to set the solos and get the idea out what riff Sedric and I were going to play in certain spots, Bill Coleman says. Then we'd rehearse once. With Fats, we fell into the groove from the start.
During the session the drinks were passed around and when they had recorded six tunes ( they had played from a quarter past ten up to noon) one of the reeds broke on one of the organ pipes and they had to stop the session to let someone repair it. In the mean time we received a big meal, offered by Victor. They started again around a quarter past one and finished the recording session in which they recorded six tunes: I'm A Hundred Percent For You - Baby Brown - Night Wind - Because Of One Upon a Time - I Believe In Miracles and You Fit Into The Picture. From each tune, several takes were hold.

Bill Coleman ( cartoon by Boy ten Hove 1938) ( from: Boy ten Hove's Caricatures: Drawings of Jazz Musicians 1935-1940 by Ate Van Delden (2006))
When the set had finished they went back to New York. In Philadelphia Fats bought two more bottles of whisky and when they finally arrived in New York both were empty. I wasn't drunk ........ Bill Coleman writes. Fact is that he didn't play that night in the Teddy Hill band, and send a substitute. Bill Coleman never again tried to match Waller in drinking !!
The recordings made during this session of the 5th of January, 1935, now 75 years ago, became favorites in juke-boxes in bars during the mid 1930s.
Hans Koert
Thanks to the great bio-discography: "Fats" in Fact by Laurie Wright. If you like this kind of remembrances about the great days of jazz, like the music of Fats Waller and you love to know what blogs will be published in the near future, ask for the news letter and you'll be informed. Please register.

Cartoon of Fats Waller by Boy ten Hove (1938).( from: Boy ten Hove's Caricatures: Drawings of Jazz Musicians 1935-1940 by Ate Van Delden (2006))

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Anonymous Esquizito said...

All that booze and no good reefer...


3:45 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

Thanks, Hans, for this great post recollecting the migthy Fats at work! Fats never went anywhere without his old 'Grand Dad', I believe.


8:11 PM  
Anonymous Brownie said...

Fascinating stuff!

Thanks for posting this, Durium

(Organissimo Jazz Forums)

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:33 PM  

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