Here's a beautifully written passage on pianist Fats Waller from Jazz (Norton), a deftly written book by Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux. Jazz provides you with a robust, friendly overview of the music and artists as well as an in-depth analysis of select recordings:
"Adapting the guise of a Harlem dandy—in a derby, vest, and tailored pinstripes—Fat Waller burlesqued the worst of Tin Pan Alley, creating satirical gems with painfully sentimental material like The Curse of an Aching Heart. At the same time, he could be touchingly sincere with good songs, like I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.
"Waller possessed a mildly strident voice of surprising suppleness, using different registers for different effects: middle octave for straightforward singing, low notes for rude asides, high ones for feminine mockery. Humor enabled Waller to sweep up the musical debris of the day, inflecting it with his own spirit.
"At the same time, Waller created several impeccable solo piano works—usually of his own invention though some were based on standards—that suggested an artistic potential far beyond his studio repertory."