I first heard The Fat Babies at the San Diego Jazz Fest, and of course enjoyed their CDs and the videos of their performances from Chicago. But the 2016 Evergreen Jazz Festival offered a special treat: several sets of this very accomplished and joyous hot band at close range, where I could see and hear them in all dimensions. I had a wonderful time, and I wasn’t alone.
If The Fat Babies are new to you, I won’t let too many words get in the way of instant access to pleasure. They are Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, arrangements, compositions; Dave Bock, trombone; Jonathan Doyle, John Otto, reeds; Paul Asaro, piano and vocal; Jake Sanders, guitar and banjo; Beau Sample, string bass and leader; Alex Hall, drums.
Their repertoire is primarily from the very early Twenties to a decade later, with a goodly sampling of hot material — from the obscure to the familiar — delivered with energy and precision, but there are also wonderful detours into early Bing (instrumentally) and esoteric pop of the period. And at a time when many bands devoted to this repertoire are Either / Or — offering exact transcriptions of venerable recordings or loose jam session romps on hallowed material, The Fat Babies move easily and without pretension between the two worlds. And their whimsical title notwithstanding, they are an impressively lean band: their eight pieces are as effective, even more so, than some larger units.
I nominate them as Delegates of Pleasure for this century.
Here’s proof, if proof is needed.
ORIENTAL MAN (a video I keep on playing over and over, and it’s not for the cinematography, I assure you):
LIVIN’ IN THE SUNLIGHT, LOVIN’ IN THE MOONLIGHT (a Bing tune c. 1933, which sounds like a remarkably good life-plan, and the performance is the very definition of Hot Dance):
GET OUT AND GET UNDER THE MOON (another excellent life-plan — preach it, Brother Asaro!):
UP TOWN (composed and arranged by Andy, a most convincing evocation of 1930-1 hot):
SALLY OF MY DREAMS (I know of only a few recordings of this — by the Dorsey Brothers, Ben Pollack, and Gregor and his Gregorians; Paul takes the vocal here):
The Fat Babies have made two CDs on their own, issued on the Delmark label, and another backing Marty Grosz. I’ve heard tell that their third, SOLID GASSUH (truth in advertising) is ready to be released any second now. I can’t wait. And there will be more videos from Evergreen, I promise.
May your happiness increase!