One of contemporary jazz's longest-running bands, Fattburger has been performing a genial brand of smooth jazz for over 15 years. The title of its latest album, T.G.I.F. (Shanachie 5081; 39:55), stands for "Thank God It's Fattburger," and it's an example of the group's playful approach to its music. The members of this popular San Diego-based band are very able musicians, but T.G. I. F. is a surprisingly bland effort; comprised primarily of easy-listening pop-jazz tunes that rarely generate much fire, the album feels oddly lacking in vitality.
That is not to say that there are no noteworthy tracks, however; the gentle "Mum's the Word," which drummer Kevin Koch wrote for his mother, and the Latin-flavored "Heaven," which evokes a tropical-island feel, are particularly effective. And Fattburger does generate some heat on a few tracks. A few years ago, the group had a hit with its version of "Oye Como Va"; deciding to revisit the Santana songbook, they remade "Evil Ways," which starts out as a faithful though undistinguished reading, but morphs into a rollicking jam that's propelled by Evan Marks' fiery rock guitar. T.G.I.F. closes with the high-energy "2 Fatt," which is led by a horn section. The problem is that there are not enough dynamic moments like those on the album.
T.G. I. F. is short and the band members had ample room to get more adventurous with the song arrangements. If they had done that, T.G.I. F. would have been a zestier and more spirited album.