Dan Morgenstern remembers Fats Waller

Each year, one NEA Jazz Masters Award goes to a non-musician. It's called the Jazz Advocate award. Recipient Dan Morgenstern is a writer and historian who runs the Institute for Jazz Studies at Rutgers University.

MUSIC: "Boo Hoo" CD: Fats Waller and his Rhythm, The Middle Years, P.1 (Disk 1, cut 20)

He recalls how certain music can ripen young ears for a lifetime of listening. Morgenstern had such an experience in 1938. He was nine years old and had just fled from Vienna to Copenhagen with his mother, when he attended his very first jazz concert. The performer was pianist Fats Waller.

Dan Morgenstern: He was a very vibrant performer. He had a very expressive face, he used to move his eyebrows up and down. And he was very funny and certainly that was entertaining for a young kid.

Morgenstern remembers that it wasn't only Waller's style that made a lasting impression.

At that point in time I hadn't seen too many black people. Naturally I'd seen movies and so on. But he was really the first African-American that I was exposed to at any great length and proximity. But most of all I think it was his beat because he had fabulous time.

MUSIC: up for punctuation, then fades

... a lifetime of listening ignited by the inimitable Fats Waller. This Jazz Moment with Writer and historian Dan Morgenstern was created by the National Endowment for the Arts .

Dan Morgenstern remembers Fats Waller