There are many ways to be introduced to the music of Thomas "Fats" Waller. This double-disc compilation of live broadcasts, radio transcript acetates, and V-Discs may serve very nicely as the introduction that the title promises. Anyone seeking to move beyond the introductory stage is advised to explore his originally issued Victor studio recordings from the years 1934 and 1935. ("I Wish I Were Twins," recorded on May 16, 1934, is the only recording on this compilation that was commercially released during Waller's lifetime.) The music paints a portrait of a remarkably versatile artist and entertainer, sometimes funny, at times even rowdy, but often quite serious, reflective, and dignified. Opening with a famous lick from Handel
, the August 1939 version of Vincent Youmans' "Hallelujah" is one of Thomas Waller's very greatest recorded piano solos. He would revisit this performance with startling intensity during a 95-mph dash through "Hallelujah" at a V-Disc recording session in September of 1943. Other great unaccompanied reveries include "Viper's Drag," "St. Louis Blues," and a lovely meditation on "Tea for Two" (also composed by Youmans). Sometimes Waller proceeds at a deliberately slow pace, as he does on his only known recording of "Lonesome Me" and a supremely cynical treatment of his most famous composition, prefaced with the words "Ladies and gentlemen, this is just to let you know that I paid my alimony, and I "'Ain't Misbehavin'.'" A few of the titles included in this grab-bag collection ("Honolulu Bundle," "California Here I Come," and "What'cha Know Joe?") were never recorded for commercial release. An Introduction to Fats Waller
is a repackaged reissue of Fuel 2000's Fats Waller centennial tribute album, Happy Birthday Fats
, issued in 2004.