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Fats Waller

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By Frederick N. Rasmussen and Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF | February 2, 2002
Thomas Wright Waller - better known to the world as Fats Waller - was called the "black Horowitz" by concert pianist Oscar Levant. Others called him the "Clown Prince of Jazz." The animated performer who was a master of the stride piano, which he drove with a powerful left hand, peppered his recordings and performances with outrageous and irreverent asides. A critic once observed, "He's as much fun to watch as listen to. He paws the piano lovingly, wags his head, grunts out lyrics in a completely untuneful voice, and keeps up a running fire of gags and comments."
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By Jacques Kelly and Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF | April 3, 2003
Mel Spears, a jazz pianist who played and sang at restaurants and clubs for six decades, died of cancer Sunday at the Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center on Loch Raven Boulevard. He was 78 and lived in Northwest Baltimore. Known for his renditions of "The Lady Is a Tramp," he delighted Baltimore audiences with his smooth, calm and melodic style, reminiscent at times of Nat King Cole or Fats Waller. Born Melvin Isler Spears in East Baltimore, he attended Dunbar High School.
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By Frederick N. Rasmussen and Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF | February 23, 2002
Several weeks ago, after I had written a column about Fats Waller, several callers and letter-writers inquired about the identity of James P. Johnson, who had been Waller's teacher during the late World War I years. "James P. Johnson is still the leading contender for the title of our most overlooked musical genius," wrote Grover Sales in his book, Jazz - America's Classical Music. Johnson was the "Father of the Stride Piano," a rhythmic, galloping piano style that combines elements of ragtime, jazz and the blues, and flourished in Harlem during its artistic renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s.
FEATURES
By J. Wynn Rousuck and J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC | January 16, 2003
As is clear from his name, Fats Waller was a big man. But he wasn't just large in girth. The jazz composer and performer had a mega-ton talent and a mega-watt personality. It takes five distinctive performers who meld into a harmonious ensemble to convey that prodigious talent and personality in the Tony Award-winning musical anthology Ain't Misbehavin', and the quintet at Center Stage does it so well, you'd swear that one of the giant Waller portraits framing the set was winking its approval.
FEATURES
By J. Wynn Rousuck and J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC | April 18, 2002
Center Stage will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a stimulating and varied season that includes two world premieres and the theater's first co-production with Washington's Arena Stage - a revival of the Fats Waller revue Ain't Misbehavin'. In a strong display of faith in the theater's own nurturing process, both of the new plays, Warren Leight's No Foreigners Beyond This Point and Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel, are Center Stage commissions. Each received staged readings this season as part of the inaugural First Look series.
ENTERTAINMENT
By J. D. Considine and J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic | January 18, 1991
SERIOUS FUNThe Knack (Charisma 91607)Those who have argued that the musical legacy of the '70s is nothing to be ashamed of might want to reconsider their position after hearing "Serious Fun," the new album by the Knack. There may not be another "My Sharona" here, but from the peppy power chords of "Rocket O' Love" to the fevered stomp of "Doin' the Dog," it's obvious that when it comes to writing hooks, these guys still have the, er, ability. So why complain? Because hooks are all this album has going for it; otherwise, the performances are passionless and perfunctory, the songs as anonymous as TV jingles.
NEWS
By Jacques Kelly and Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF | April 3, 2003
Mel Spears, a jazz pianist who played and sang at restaurants and clubs for six decades, died of cancer Sunday at the Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center on Loch Raven Boulevard. He was 78 and lived in Northwest Baltimore. Known for his renditions of "The Lady Is a Tramp," he delighted Baltimore audiences with his smooth, calm and melodic style, reminiscent at times of Nat King Cole or Fats Waller. Born Melvin Isler Spears in East Baltimore, he attended Dunbar High School.
FEATURES
By J. Wynn Rousuck and J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC | October 31, 1996
The difficulty with the otherwise pleasant production of "Ain't Misbehavin' " at the Lyric Opera House is that it's too well-behaved.Fats Waller -- whose music is celebrated in this revue, conceived by Richard Maltby Jr. -- was sassy and irreverent. And, the production's cast of five, headed by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, does cut loose with some occasional sass. But a Motown group might be expected to lend a little 1960s soul flavor to the proceedings.Instead, director/choreographer Julia Lema seems to have tried so hard to be reverent and pure, she's come up with a production that honors Waller, but often manages to miss his rousing spirit.
NEWS
By Robert Hilson Jr. and Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF | July 12, 1996
David E. Sloan had a grand speaking manner, a penchant for minute details and an ever ready ear to hear others out.And, like the preacher, attorney and writer that he was, Mr. Sloan always had something interesting to say."He was a very well-spoken and a very articulate man," said Frank Conaway, a former state delegate and longtime friend. "He was the kind of man who, after you talked to him, you immediately felt good and liked him."Mr. Sloan, 73, who died Sunday of heart failure at his Howard Park home in West Baltimore, was probably best known for the quiet advice he offered local politicians and business leaders.
FEATURES
By J. Wynn Rousuck and J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC | January 16, 2003
As is clear from his name, Fats Waller was a big man. But he wasn't just large in girth. The jazz composer and performer had a mega-ton talent and a mega-watt personality. It takes five distinctive performers who meld into a harmonious ensemble to convey that prodigious talent and personality in the Tony Award-winning musical anthology Ain't Misbehavin', and the quintet at Center Stage does it so well, you'd swear that one of the giant Waller portraits framing the set was winking its approval.
NEWS
By M. Dion Thompson and M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF | October 1, 2002
Ellis Lane Larkins, the Baltimore prodigy whose wonderfully elegant touch at the piano made him one of the jazz world's finest accompanists, died of pneumonia Sunday at Maryland General Hospital after a long illness. The Bolton Hill resident was 79. Born and raised in West Baltimore, he grew up in a musical home. Both his parents were musicians. His father, John Wesley Larkins, played violin in the City Colored Orchestra, while his mother, Clara Emily Larkins, played piano. His two sisters and three brothers all sang or played instruments.
FEATURES
By J. Wynn Rousuck and J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC | April 18, 2002
Center Stage will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a stimulating and varied season that includes two world premieres and the theater's first co-production with Washington's Arena Stage - a revival of the Fats Waller revue Ain't Misbehavin'. In a strong display of faith in the theater's own nurturing process, both of the new plays, Warren Leight's No Foreigners Beyond This Point and Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel, are Center Stage commissions. Each received staged readings this season as part of the inaugural First Look series.
FEATURES
By Frederick N. Rasmussen and Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF | February 23, 2002
Several weeks ago, after I had written a column about Fats Waller, several callers and letter-writers inquired about the identity of James P. Johnson, who had been Waller's teacher during the late World War I years. "James P. Johnson is still the leading contender for the title of our most overlooked musical genius," wrote Grover Sales in his book, Jazz - America's Classical Music. Johnson was the "Father of the Stride Piano," a rhythmic, galloping piano style that combines elements of ragtime, jazz and the blues, and flourished in Harlem during its artistic renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s.
FEATURES
By Frederick N. Rasmussen and Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF | February 2, 2002
Thomas Wright Waller - better known to the world as Fats Waller - was called the "black Horowitz" by concert pianist Oscar Levant. Others called him the "Clown Prince of Jazz." The animated performer who was a master of the stride piano, which he drove with a powerful left hand, peppered his recordings and performances with outrageous and irreverent asides. A critic once observed, "He's as much fun to watch as listen to. He paws the piano lovingly, wags his head, grunts out lyrics in a completely untuneful voice, and keeps up a running fire of gags and comments."
FEATURES
By J. Wynn Rousuck and J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC | October 31, 1996
The difficulty with the otherwise pleasant production of "Ain't Misbehavin' " at the Lyric Opera House is that it's too well-behaved.Fats Waller -- whose music is celebrated in this revue, conceived by Richard Maltby Jr. -- was sassy and irreverent. And, the production's cast of five, headed by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, does cut loose with some occasional sass. But a Motown group might be expected to lend a little 1960s soul flavor to the proceedings.Instead, director/choreographer Julia Lema seems to have tried so hard to be reverent and pure, she's come up with a production that honors Waller, but often manages to miss his rousing spirit.
NEWS
By Robert Hilson Jr. and Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF | July 12, 1996
David E. Sloan had a grand speaking manner, a penchant for minute details and an ever ready ear to hear others out.And, like the preacher, attorney and writer that he was, Mr. Sloan always had something interesting to say."He was a very well-spoken and a very articulate man," said Frank Conaway, a former state delegate and longtime friend. "He was the kind of man who, after you talked to him, you immediately felt good and liked him."Mr. Sloan, 73, who died Sunday of heart failure at his Howard Park home in West Baltimore, was probably best known for the quiet advice he offered local politicians and business leaders.
NEWS
December 23, 1990
Sayed Tawfik, 54, Egypt's chief archeologist and chairman of antiquities, has died of a heart attack in Sakkara,south of Cairo. Mr. Tawfik, a former dean of archaeology and professor of Egyptology at Cairo University, was the author of a half-dozen books on Egyptian antiquities. As chairman of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization, he was in charge of all restoration and conservation work on Egypt's vast legacy of pyramids, tombs, temples and other relics threatened by time, pollution and the demands of an exploding population.
NEWS
By M. Dion Thompson and M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF | October 1, 2002
Ellis Lane Larkins, the Baltimore prodigy whose wonderfully elegant touch at the piano made him one of the jazz world's finest accompanists, died of pneumonia Sunday at Maryland General Hospital after a long illness. The Bolton Hill resident was 79. Born and raised in West Baltimore, he grew up in a musical home. Both his parents were musicians. His father, John Wesley Larkins, played violin in the City Colored Orchestra, while his mother, Clara Emily Larkins, played piano. His two sisters and three brothers all sang or played instruments.
ENTERTAINMENT
By J. D. Considine and J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic | January 18, 1991
SERIOUS FUNThe Knack (Charisma 91607)Those who have argued that the musical legacy of the '70s is nothing to be ashamed of might want to reconsider their position after hearing "Serious Fun," the new album by the Knack. There may not be another "My Sharona" here, but from the peppy power chords of "Rocket O' Love" to the fevered stomp of "Doin' the Dog," it's obvious that when it comes to writing hooks, these guys still have the, er, ability. So why complain? Because hooks are all this album has going for it; otherwise, the performances are passionless and perfunctory, the songs as anonymous as TV jingles.
NEWS
December 23, 1990
Sayed Tawfik, 54, Egypt's chief archeologist and chairman of antiquities, has died of a heart attack in Sakkara,south of Cairo. Mr. Tawfik, a former dean of archaeology and professor of Egyptology at Cairo University, was the author of a half-dozen books on Egyptian antiquities. As chairman of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization, he was in charge of all restoration and conservation work on Egypt's vast legacy of pyramids, tombs, temples and other relics threatened by time, pollution and the demands of an exploding population.
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