Brooks Kerr was known as the premier protege and expert on the music of Duke Ellington. One day before Ellington’s birthday, in 2018 Kerr himself passed away due to an ongoing bout with kidney disease. Born in 1951 with partial blindness he became totally blind by age 28. He was known for being both an expert on Ellington’s music, as well as being a very interesting stride-style pianist, and a general jazz historian. He was fortunate enough to become a personal protege of Duke, often sitting in with the band as a “relief” pianist, especially toward the end of Ellington’s life, as he was battling cancer. In 1982 on his own label, Blue Wail, he started recording his own projects to document much of the music he studied and loved so much.
On this first time ever CD and digital release, Brooks Kerr has dedicated an album’s worth of the music of his second favorite pianist and composer, Fats Waller, to show the variety of textures and formats with which Fats could create. Featured in his usual trio setting, the instrumentation he used for many nights at Gregory’s in New York City, here he employs legendary bassist George Duvivier as well as original Ellington drummer, Sonny Greer. A unique feature of this album is the fact before each song we receive joyous anecdotal introductions by Kerr himself, backed by his own organ playing; another tribute to the contributions of Waller. Kerr even adds his own ebullient vocal stylings to some of the tracks, which creates a very happy, old fashioned mood that is quite enjoyable, listening after listening.