There is nothing innovative about the Fat Babies. The Chicago hot-jazz band is stuck, firmly and proudly, in the long-ago past. The seven musicians in this group may all appear to be young fellows, but they are very old men at heart. Their third proper album, Solid Gassuh, is more of the same, and that’s a great thing.
The music of the 1920s and ’30s comes crisply alive in modern fidelity. The septet—Andy Schumm on cornet, Dave Bock on trombone, John Otto on clarinet and alto saxophone, Jake Sanders on banjo and guitar, Paul Asaro on piano, Beau Sample on bass and Alex Hall on drums—transports us to an innocent age well before the chaos of bebop. On familiar tunes like “Doctor Blues” and “Maple Leaf Rag,” and less-remembered ones like “Parkway Stomp” and “Sing Song Girl,” horns swing wildly atop drumming locked in with metronomic bass plucking and banjo strumming and rollicking stride piano. The musicianship is superb and everything sounds so historically accurate—from Schumm’s hearty blasts and Bock’s low growls to Asaro’s boogie-woogie runs and Hall’s hi-hat hits. Even Asaro’s earnest vocals—he sings on five tunes including the wonderful great-grandpa hit “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?”—are perfectly dated. If the Fat Babies had overdubbed cracks and pops onto this album, you’d swear it was a compilation of old 78s.