Davell Crawford, Dear Fats, I Love You (Basin Street Records)

Davell Crawford allows his piano to sing the lyrics of the late, legendary Fats Domino’s greatest hits on Dear Fats, I Love You. He’s alone at the wonderfully rich sounding Steinway performing 15 classic numbers primarily written by Domino himself or in collaboration with his longtime music partner, the incredible trumpeter/producer Dave Bartholomew. This pure setting allows the always-creative Crawford to interpret, reinvent, and embellish songs that he and generations of listeners know so well, with his own masterful and loving touch. His renditions of the tunes, minus any vocals, also shine a light on the composers’ brilliant insight into the beauty of simplicity.

The album begins with the very recognizable first notes of “Ain’t That a Shame,” with Crawford’s strong left hand supplying the essential rhythm. When the pianist does elaborate, he does so from the heart of the New Orleans piano style that he and Fats shared.

It takes several bars into “I’m Walking’” to identify Domino’s and Bartholomew’s masterpiece. Crawford performs it at a dreamy pace, almost more like a Charles Brown love song than the rollicking original. It’s followed by a fast and incredibly fun boogie-woogie go at Domino’s “I’m Ready.”

Crawford rocks “I’m in Love Again,” goes to town on “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday,” sways on “I Want to Walk You Home,” becomes sophisticated on “When My Dreamboat Comes Home,” and continually throws in those trills and triplets that shout Fats Domino and the New Orleans piano rhythm and blues tradition.

Davell Crawford can musically “mess around” with that legacy, that sound, and Domino’s songs, as he is a vital part and extension of them all. Dear Fats, I Love You is for those who feel the same adoration of Antoine “Fats” Domino, as the genius of Davell Crawford expresses on this historic album.