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Beau Sample – Bass
Andy Schumm – Cornet
John Otto – Clarinet, alto saxophone
Dave Bock – Trombone
Jake Sanders – Banjo, guitar
Paul Asaro – Piano, vocals
Alex Hall – Drums
The exciting and talented Chicago septet, The Fat Babies, continues putting a modern twist on early jazz gems on their third release Solid Gassuh. The title is taken from trumpeter Louis Armstrong’s jargon, meaning “definitely of high quality.” Solid Gassuh includes 15 pre-swing standards from such luminaries like pianists Lil Hardin-Armstrong and Clarence Williams. Cornetist Andy Schumm arranged most of these tunes, endowing them with a refreshingly contemporary feel without sacrificing their authenticity or nostalgic aura.
On “Pencil Papa,” Schumm trades warm, fluid lines with clarinetist John Otto, as trombonist Dave Bock tailgates with a wistful flair. Elsewhere, on the western-tinged “Slow River,” Bock takes an elegant and agile solo. The band infuses the piece with a carefree exuberance as Otto takes center stage with a melodic and resonant solo.
Schumm blows his cornet with gusto on trombonist Albert Wynn’s energetic “Parkway Stomp” as the rhythm section keeps the cadence in thrilling sashays. Banjoist Jake Sanders makes his strings sing mellifluously while pianist Paul Asaro showcases his stride stylings.
There are plenty of whimsical moments on the record, as is heard on popular composer Walter Doyle’s “Egyptian Ella.” The song—the only one Asaro arranged—also features his humorous vocals and Schumm’s growling, muted horn.
Bassist Beau Sample and drummer Alex Hall not only simultaneously propel and anchor the music throughout, but also take turns in the spotlight with suave charm. Hall closes cornetist Thomas Morris’ “Original Charleston Strut” with a delightful and dynamic rumble. Meanwhile, Sample bows his bass with dramatic melancholy on songwriter James Hanley’s kitschy “Sing Song Girl.”
Recorded at the band’s regular venue Honky-Tonk BBQ, the disc’s sound has an organic genuineness to it. This, together with the ensemble’s vibrant performances, makes this album expressive and captivating. With works like Solid Gassuh, The Fat Babies are taking this absorbing tradition out of libraries and museums and back into the public’s musical consciousness.