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With his often-comical vocal delivery and Harlem hep-cat persona, Thomas “Fats” Waller is among the most beloved performers in American music. He and frequent lyricist Andy Razaf penned gems such as “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose,” which have long been ensconced in the Great American Songbook and interpreted by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington and countless others. But hearing Fats perform this material is an experience unto itself, his insinuating, sometimes insulting asides (“Your pedal extremities are obnoxious”) providing a source of great hilarity. And watching him perform, as many did in short films or “soundies” (and in the 1943 feature film Stormy Weather) made him instantly recognizable, his Falstaffian girth, pencil-thin mustache and archly cocked eyebrows becoming as iconic as his music. And did we mention that the cat played piano? Waller’s sprightly pianism roots his tunes in the Harlem stride style of pioneers James P. Johnson (Fats’ mentor) and Willie “The Lion” Smith, with delicate filigrees giving way to furious runs. Waller’s songs were the star of the 1978 revue Ain’t Misbehavin’, the Broadway smash that revived interest in his music, but his sparkling piano playing takes center stage on the all-instrumental 1977 RCA release Fats Waller Piano Solos, 1929-1941, culled from his classic sides. Waller was aboard a cross-country train on his way back to New York when his hard living caught up with him: He died on Dec. 15, 1943 from bronchial pneumonia at age 39.