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The Amazing Fats Waller. Who was he and what was his significance?

Thomas Wright Waller otherwise know as Fats Waller is considered to be one of the three big stride masters along with James Johnson and Willie the Lion Smith during the early twenties. He was born in 1904 in rural Virginia. His parents then moved to New York City.
Waller lived for a mere 39 years and died in 1943. His music is generally placed in a transitional category and is not as popular or well known today due to the greater familiarity and popularity of ‘modern’ jazz. Nevertheless, his fame and influence extend far and wide. Whereas his mentor James Johnson ‘retired’ into relative obscurity, Waller went on to a brilliant career as composer, pianist, organist, vocalist, radio personality and showman, blithely creating one evergreen tune and piano masterpiece after another. His legacy is that of a worldwide influence on jazz and popular musicians to this day and the seminal figure in a school of piano playing that includes Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum and Oscar Perterson.

To hear a recent performance of two of Wallers great solos, see Handful of Keys and Carolina Shout.


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