Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Fat Babies, 18th & Racine

Classical jazz repertoire projects, as most of us well know, are a growing segment of the current-day jazz field. I have a mixed view of it all but when it comes to early jazz projects I am inclined to be more receptive than not, if they are done well. Why? Because for one thing the recording technology of those early days gives us less of a feel for how ensembles actually sounded in real-time. And if the band gives us a good performance of the material we find ourselves transported back in time to what a live experience of the music was really like.

The Chicago outfit known as the Fat Babies do that for us, very nicely in fact. 18th & Racine (Delmark 255) I believe is their second album. (See the March 19, 2013 posting on their first, Chicago Hot.) It is a seven-piece band who have done their homework, more than that even, in that they have internalized the early jazz style so that both in the ensemble and in the solos an authentic and fully alive feeling surrounds you as you listen. These cats can play and they do. They do it right.

The repertoire is what you might have heard if you caught some of the Chicago School musicians on a live date, for the most part. They uncover some gems only a specialist in the period may know well--"Liza," "King Kong Stomp," "Blueberry Rhyme," as well as the familiar "Stardust" done Chicago style. They also throw in an original, the title cut. The seven piece band of leader Beau Sample on bass, Andy Schumm, cornet and arrangements, plus some hot cats on trombone, clarinet and sax, piano, guitar or banjo, and drums make it all work.

This is early jazz with all the fervor and heat of the era presented to us in sterling modern digital fidelity. The Fat Babies are onto something. Highly recommended!

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