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Fats & Friends DVD Review

by Gary Schwind

This DVD shows one night at Storyville in New Orleans, which Paul Shaffer called "a rock n roll piano summit." It certainly is that. The show begins with Fats Domino, who plays seven songs. This is as close as I've ever come to seeing Fats live and even seeing him on DVD is a treat. He has a glint in his eye when he plays, almost like he's up to something. He especially made the place hop with his rendition of "Shake, Rattle and Roll." It is an incredible set and that's only the beginning.

Fats is followed by Jerry Lee Lewis. In his introductory interview with Shaffer, Lewis tells Shaffer that he got his first piano at age 8 and taught himself to play without ever taking any lessons. As someone who fumbles horribly at the piano, I find that amazing. Ron Wood is a part of the Killer's band and takes a short solo in "Great Balls of Fire." In his last song, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," Killer stands on top of the piano and sings. Before he finishes the song, he sits on the keyboard a couple of times. I have to tell you, he plays the piano better by sitting on the keyboard than I do in the traditional fashion.

Ray Charles follows Jerry Lee Lewis, and what could I possibly say about that? It's Ray Charles. They don't call him The Genius for nothing.

After a couple songs by Ray Charles, the other two rejoin him on stage for a jam session. I can't say I have ever seen anything like it. Three piano giants on the stage at the same time. It is something you just have to experience. I wish I could have been there when it happened. Unfortunately, I was twelve and living in Ohio. My favorite part of the jam session is "Jambalaya," which all three recorded. Each one sings a verse and they bring the house down with their version of this Hank Williams classic.

The bonus features of this DVD are great too. Paul Shaffer talks about some of the problems the artists had in rehearsal. Things like this are bound to happen when you have three brilliant people coming together. Shaffer thought it would be a good idea to perform "Jambalaya" since all three men had recorded it. The problem was that they couldn't decide in which key the song should be played. Fats Domino said he only plays it in D-flat, while the other two either played it in another key or said they could play it in any key. You can see (but not really hear) the discussion between the four (including Paul Shaffer) piano players. You can also see that Shaffer was a little overwhelmed with the whole thing. And why wouldn't he be? How could you possibly tell any one, let alone all three of these guys, how to perform a song?

There were a couple random things in the bonus features that I found pretty amusing. When Shaffer was talking to Fats Domino before the beginning of the show, Domino calls Shaffer the "big boss with the hot sauce." After Fats finished and Jerry Lee Lewis was waiting to take the stage, Killer told Shaffer that he broke his hand punching a Cadillac. Now word on what the Cadillac did to deserve such treatment.

This DVD is fantastic. To pack so much stuff into a little less than two hours is a real accomplishment. If you like rock n roll piano, this DVD is something you need to add to your collection.

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