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The Fat Babies: Chicago Hot

Jack Huntley By

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What 's old is new again—or maybe it's more accurate to say, what used to be hip is hot again. The Fat Babies' Chicago Hot harkens back to the early jazz-blues amalgamation of King Oliver, and is as vibrantly interpreted by this seven-piece ensemble as it was when the music was originally pressed onto 78 RPMs. In the past decade, Hot Jazz has been steadily gaining fans as many contemporary musicians find new inspiration in these old forms. The Fat Babies is a very talented incarnation of this hep-cat renaissance.

Borrowing mainly from the music of Chicago's famous South Side, the Fat Babies also incorporates the phrasing and feel of hot jazz extraordinaire, Bix Beiderbecke thanks to cornetist Andy Schumann. Coupled with the sly lines of clarinetist John Otto, Schumann's inventive and catchy improvisations radiate on tracks like Jelly Roll Morton's "Froggie Moore" and "Black Snake Blues," by blues singer Victoria Spivery.

The music really comes to a boil when cornet and clarinet are joined with the propulsion of trombonist Dave Bock's melodic turns. In "Here Comes the Hot Tamale Man," all three wind instruments rise and fall in a torrent of Dixieland bliss---trading eights while the others lay down a supportive bedrock. With Otto flying high, Schumann lets loose a swinging, raspy solo invention before giving ground to Bock's rhythmically exciting and melodically spot-on solo. Typical of Chicago style Hot Jazz, most tracks employ a swinging, upbeat style whose format lends itself to inventive, fast-paced soloing.

A notable exception is Fats Waller's medium-paced classic "Willow Tree," its beautiful melody allowing the soloists time to intersperse quick melodic darts with glistening, held notes. The track is also a great opportunity for the rhythm section; throughout Chicago Hot, these three display remarkable timing as a unit, masterfully weaving together for the fast tempo and quick accent breaks of the Hot Jazz format. On this slower track, however, there's space and time to drink in their combined appeal. Pianist Paul Asaro impresses with his dramatically quiet intro to "Liza (All The Clouds'll Roll Away)" before the tune takes off into a quick, trotting pace, matched beautifully by the pianist's crisp, accentual phrasing.

There may not be many second acts in American history, as author F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed, but there is a long tradition of second looks—especially in music which has always proven itself extraordinarily malleable and awaits only a young enough audience to appreciate the newness these old sounds can accommodate.

Track Listing: Snake Rag; London Cafe Blues; San; Alexander's Ragtime Band; I Surrender; Dardanella; Black Snake Blues; Here Comes The Hot Tamale Man; Froggie Moore; Willow Tree; Weary Blues; Liza (All The Clouds'll Roll Away); Please; Susie; Tight Like This; Stomp Off, Let's Go.

Personnel: Beau Sample: string bass; Andy Schumm: cornet; John Otto: clarinet, saxophones; Dave Block: trombone; Paul Asaro: piano; Jake Sanders: tenor banjo; Alex Hall: drums; Mike Walbridge: tuba.

Title: Chicago Hot | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Delmark Records


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