In jazz, it’s dangerous to your reputation to be too popular; we critics prefer the obscure and the daunting. Particularly since jazz became a self-conscious “art form,” a musician’s legacy has been better served by a frown or an addiction that by a wide swath of joy. If You’ve Got to Ask, You Ain’t Got It, a three-disc compilation of the finest music made by jazz pianist, composer, and singer Thomas “Fats” Waller, has arrived to blow that algorithm sky-high. It is a mighty blast of joy and a hurricane of artistry, as fresh and light and sublime today as it was 70 years ago. If you have the slightest interest in jazz or the American pop song tradition, this box set should be your best friend and companion deep into the cold weather. It’s a warm blanket and a life support system, a perfect holiday gift and a cherished friend on a long slushy drive. It’s a perfect smile to last you all night long. [Amazon]
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