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The Fat Babies: 18th & Racine

Hrayr Attarian By

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Early jazz stylists The Fat Babies' second album 18th & Racine is bolder than their first in their choice of material and their delivery of the songs included. Encouraged by the successful execution of their debut Chicago Hot (Delmark 2012) the band presents 14 lesser-known gems and an original composition by their cornetist Andy Schumm. The relative obscurity of these delightful pieces and the deftness by which the dust of history is polished off them exposes their raw emotion and makes for a very intriguing listening experience.

Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Charlie Gaines' whimsical "I Can't Dance (I Got Ants in My Pants)," first popularized by pioneering trumpeter Valaida Snow, features group vocals over drummer Alex Hall's clear, resonating beats and pianist Paul Asaro's bright, stride solo.

Pianist Joseph Robichaux's "King Kong Stomp," which in its original incarnation in 1933 was one of the first recordings to introduce the vibraphone, opens with a primal, thumping rhythm that Hall and leader/bassist Beau Sample lay down. Reedman John Otto Richardson agile, elastic saxophone and Schumm's burnished horn contrast nicely with trombonist Dave Bock's bluesy growl.

Banjoist Jake Sanders shines in a brief, crisp and innovative improvisation on composer Owen Murphy's "Oh Baby." Schumm plays the romantic and deceptively simple melody with a lilting tone and sophisticated flair.

Shumm's own original, the title track, invokes the ambience of suave nightspots like the legendary Cotton Club. Schumm blows his horn with unbridled passion while Sample and Bock's exchanges add a dark and nocturnesque streak. Bock's trombone moans and roars over the syncopated rhythms with an urbane swagger.

Pianist/composer Mel Stitzel's (of New Orleans Rhythm Kings fame) "Chant" epitomizes the exuberant camaraderie of this energetic ensemble. The various members engage in thrilling musical exchanges as they take their turns in the spotlight.

This highly enjoyable and engaging disc closes with a nod to yet another pianist, this time Harlem giant James P. Johnson. Asaro plays Johnson's mellow "Blueberry Rhyme" with agility and elegance with only the backing of Hall's brushes.

With 18th & Racine the "trad jazz combo" The Fat Babies have honed and perfected their skills not only as musicians but also as true revivalists. They have resurrected, with their unique approach, unjustly forgotten tunes and together the nostalgic aura of a bygone era.

Track Listing: Liza; Till Times Get Better; The Stampede; Mabel's Dream; Nobody's Sweetheart; I Can't Dance (I Got Ants In My Pants); 18th & Racine; King Kong Stomp; El Rado Scuffle; Oh Baby; Stardust; I'll Fly to Hawaii; Oh Me! Oh My!; The Chant; Blueberry Rhyme.

Personnel: Beau Sample: bass; Andy Schumm: cornet and alto saxophone; John Otto: clarinet and alto saxophone; Dave Bock: trombone; Jake Sanders: banjo; Paul Asaro: piano; Alex Hall: drums.

Title: 18th & Racine | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Delmark Records

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