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Marty Grosz/Fat Babies: Diga Diga Doo: Hot Music from Chicago

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Fledgling jazz musicians take note. In his annotations to this lighthearted collection of vintage tunes, Marty Grosz, the 85-year-old guitarist, banjoist, crooner and raconteur, offers some sage advice: “I suggest that you take up an instrument, study and practice until you become accomplished, and then attach yourself to someone who can support you.”

Of course, failing that, you can always find ample joy in the music itself, as Grosz demonstrates here. Clearly inspired by the setting and the selection of tunes, he sounds as pleased as can be, playing with a group of kindred spirits and occasionally providing deadpan commentary (“Banjos never die-they just sound that way”). The lineup includes pianist James Dapogny, reedman Jonathan Doyle and, key to the album’s considerable charm and vitality, the Fat Babies, a hot-swing septet out of Chicago led by bassist Beau Sample. Doyle and John Otto, on clarinet and tenor and baritone saxophones, are largely responsible for the album’s shining lyricism, while Dapogny and fellow pianist Paul Asaro craft wonderfully evocative accompaniment. Cornetist Andy Schumm also distinguishes himself in a crucial role, and Grosz certainly does his part, contributing concise breaks and steady propulsion.

Some tunes are classics, such as “How Deep Is the Ocean,” though it receives a Louis Armstrong-inspired overhaul. But often, the more obscure or sadly neglected the tune, the better. Take the album’s title track, for example, a Cotton Club favorite that colorfully kicks off this session and presages similar pleasures to come.

Originally Published