• Fats Waller – The Minor Drag

Well, I’m beginning to get the hang of dragging video and audio files onto these pages, so here’s the first non-YouTube audio.  Fats Waller is one of my all-time favourites, partly because I’d give almost anything to be able to play stride like he does and partly because he never fails to bring a smile to my face, whether he’s singing or not.

The Minor Drag is a classic example of Waller’s pianism and ensemble playing, with great contributions from the rest of the band (terrific secondary rag rhythms!).  It was recorded on 1 March 1929 (St David’s Day to us Celts), with ‘His Buddies’: Charlie Gaines (trumpet), Charlie Irvis (trombone), Arville Harris (clarinet, alto and tenor sax) and Eddie Condon (banjo).

In the photo (thanks to ‘Shiraz Socialist’ for this – I’ve never come across it before), Waller’s on the right.  Eddie Condon is second from left.  I don’t know who the other two are – any ideas?  The Minor Drag is significant because it was the first recording in which a black jazz musician had led a group which had a white player in the line-up (rather than the other way round).  In fact, it is probable that Condon put this session together, as he made a point of organising racially integrated recordings.  I hope it puts a spring your step as the leaves start to turn and fall this near-autumnal morning!

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