Fat Cat is a large underground room located at 75 Christopher Street (off of Seventh Avenue South) in Greenwich Village, New York City. Without much fanfare, it has been featuring jazz at night — sometimes three different bands performing each evening — as well as Sunday afternoon sets by pianist / singer Terry Waldo and his Gotham City Band.
Last Sunday, September 25, 2011, was a special afternoon, because Dan Barrett, the Pride of Costa Mesa, California, brought his trombone and cornet to the session. Early on, the band included Peter Ecklund on trumpet; Pete Martinez, clarinet; Terry himself; John Gill, drums and banjo; Alexi David, string bass — with guest appearances from singers Barbara Rosene and Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton.
As always, Fat Cat is known for “atmospheric lighting,” which means deep darkness (but you can always pretend you are listening with your eyes closed to the world’s best live radio broadcast) and occasional irrelevant shouts of triumph from the young folk playing foosball or other games . . . but even with these distractions, the music remained focused, stirring, and swinging.
The session began with a very happy — even joyous — MILENBERG JOYS:
Be it ever so humble, there’s no song like HOME — with deep associations to Louis Armstrong (early and middle-period) and an irreplaceable Keynote recording by Jack Teagarden, Joe Thomas, and Coleman Hawkins:
A groovy, slow-drag BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME was next, suggesting that the Sweetie in question was exceedingly Naughty to inspire such music:
Pete Martinez, Terry, Alexi, and John took a different tack with the RUBBER PLANT RAG:
I hadn’t seen or heard the fine singer Barbara Rosene in a long time, but she sounds wonderful, here CONFESSIN’ her inward thoughts to us in the darkness:
And to show off her cheery side, her sunny-side-up, she chose ‘S’WONDERFUL to follow:
Terry chose the venerable Berlin song ALL BY MYSELF for his feature, with Dan taking over Peter Ecklund’s lead by playing hot cornet:
The delightfully enigmatic Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton sat in for DIGA DIGA DOO — singing and clowning and having a fine time:
Then, a highlight for me — John Gill’s performance of the most satirized song in pop music of the last hundred years, MY MELANCHOLY BABY, which he sang with casual sincerity, the mark of a genuine performer:
MARGIE, ninety-plus years old, is still entrancing us:
Barbara Rosene told me that IF I HAD YOU is one of her favorite songs: her sweet conviction comes through in every bar:
Jerron returned to sing WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS, and the band agreed that optimism of this sort is never out of style. (The young gamers were shouting at the start, but I could dream those troubles away with ease):
And the session closed with a frankly riotous CHINATOWN, Jerron mugging while Dan and Pete played superb improvisations:
Music worth descending into the depths for . . . and the cover charge at Fat Cat is a very tidy three dollars, a rare pittance in New York City.