Fat Babies | Honky Tonk BBQ | Jazz | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Sun., Dec. 22, 8 p.m. 2013
Chicago’s Fat Babies named their terrific second album 18th & Racine (Delmark), after the location of Honky Tonk BBQ in Pilsen—the venue where the band holds court every Sunday evening, delivering crisp, infectious, historically informed interpretations of the traditional jazz repertoire to eager young audiences. (They also play Tuesdays at the Green Mill, though they’re skipping this week’s gig.) I initially scoffed at the idea of a group of thirtysomethings playing this music for nattily dressed dancers strutting their stuff, but the band’s excellence disarmed me. Yes, the Fat Babies hark back to sounds that were popular in Chicago (and New Orleans) nine decades ago, but their energy and precision are hard to resist. This astute, erudite combo—bassist and leader Beau Sample, cornetist and alto saxophonist Andy Schumm, reedist John Otto, trombonist Dave Bock, pianist Paul Asaro, tenor banjoist Jake Sanders, and drummer Alex Hall—sounds utterly sincere; no smirking, no pomo flourishes, no arch remakes. They cut the new record at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio, giving it a beautiful room sound that doubles down on the old-school vibe of their debut—and even better is the way it can sweep you away with its buoyant arrangements, effortless multilinear improvisation, and brisk rhythms. Schumm wrote the title track, but the others are all by the likes of James P. Johnson, Eddie Condon, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and Fletcher Henderson. It’s a cliche to call this material timeless, but the Fat Babies inject so much vitality into it that it’s still getting people up on their feet today. —Peter Margasak



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