View credits, reviews, tracks and shop for the CD release of Alligator Crawl on Discogs. View credits, reviews, tracks and shop for the Shellac release of Alligator Crawl / Viper’s Drag on Discogs. In the beginning there was a composition by the young Fats Waller. He probably composed it in and he called it Alligator Crawl.

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In the beginning there was a composition by the young Fats Waller.

He probably composed it in and he called it Alligator Crawl. It acquired words by Andy Razaf, so it was also available as a song: Alligator Crawl is so appealing – A creepy rhythm that will tickle your toes. allligator

Never fails to bring a happy feeling – Its tempo has a charm that grows and grows I nFats Waller himself recorded it as a piano solo. His version makes it sound like a boogie-woogie blended with a rocking catchy song. I believe this version is still popular as a party piece for solo pianists. Bert Brandsma has kindly supplied me with an analysis of the structure: Cyr on guitar and Pete Briggs on tuba had made a lusty three-minute recording in Chicago of Alligator Crawl.

Aligator Crawl (Waller, Fats) – IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library: Free Public Domain Sheet Music

Their version has not much in common with the later recording by Fats Waller. It plays the bar theme only once from 1 min. Although these 24 bars seem to my ear to use the same harmonic sequence as Fats Waller, Louis plays a melody that is almost totally different, apart from the famous opening two bars: In most respects the Hot Seven interpretation is so different from the other that the two versions sound like two different pieces of music.


This led me to speculate that Armstrong and his pianist wife Lil Hardin took just a musical idea and the harmonies from the Waller bar theme and re-structured them in their own way, allowing for some tremendous fresh invention. My guess was that Lil Hardin’s was the brain behind the project.

With her classical training and skills as a jazz composer and arranger constantly in use with this band in the midsnot to mention that she plays the piano on the recording, I would not be surprised if there is as much Hardin as Waller in the Hot Seven recording. Even the four bar blues sequences especially the ensemble one that is repeated in the Armstrong version are not any old improvisations: This recording appears to have been made only a month after that of the Hot Seven.

Could the Hot Seven have started by looking at the the same musical arrangement that Doc Cook used so precisely – re-interpreting it freely in their own way?

Alligator Crawl

So I have to come to the conclusion that Waller probably wrote a bar theme as well as the famous theme aligator he originally composed the piece, but that he chose to re-write the tune, dropping the bar theme and replacing it with some new bar material, when he came to record it as a piano speciality seven years later. Unless somebody finds a manuscript or orchestration fromwe may never know the full story. A theory of Erwin Elvers of Luetjensee, Vats, is that the Alligator Crawl played by Armstrong was based on a Spencer Williams composition from which Fats Waller adopted the theme for his own composition.


But this theory – though it appeals to me as plausible – seems unsupported by paper records. See Dick Baker’s research at http: Parlophone put out a version with the title as Alligator Blues and the composer as ‘Williams’.

Perhaps that’s what influenced Erwin Elvers; but both the title and the composer on this label are are surely incorrect: Click hear to listen.

Alligator Crawl – Fats Waller – 1934

Its structure is as follows. It comprises eight segments: One bar in which Louis modulates the key back to F making the previous theme fatw stretch to a highly unusual 25 bars.

And if tats would like to examine a 21st-Century version by the great young band Tuba SkinnyI can tell you they have recorded it on their Pyramid Fas CD, and you can watch them on YouTube, thanks to the generosity of the great video-maker digitalalexa playing it in public.

You will find that Tuba Skinny take the tune a shade more slowly than Louis but they follow meticulously the structure and spirit of his recording, right down to that ‘extra’ bar I have called Segment 6 watch out for it at precisely 2 mins. But of course, being Tuba Skinny, they in particular Shaye on cornet have introduced exciting alternative improvised phrasings of their own. Watch the performance by clicking here.

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