This week, I thought I would tackle an analysis/listening guide to Waller’s Handful of Keys. It was recorded in 1929 and reissued on Fats Waller Piano Solos: Turn on the Heat by the RCA Bluebird label (index 2482, 1991).

Here’s the tune:

The cast of characters: Well..just Fats!

Form: AABA (traditional song-form)

What to listen for:

The tune starts off with an eight-bar introduction, followed by two choruses of the head, or main melody. Next, there is a four-bar interlude where Fats modulates (changes key) and moves into a thirty-two bar “Trio” strain (a term taken from Ragtime); these thirty-two measures have a form that is independent of the primary AABA arrangement along with new melodic content. In order to add unity to the tune, Fats follows the “Trio” with two choruses of the original head (in the original key) and then finishes off with a tag (or coda).