The Fat Babies – Uptown
Delmark DE 258 (2019)
The Fat Babies are back for their fourth effort for Delmark Records, and this time the dance tunes are lathered with the butter of sophisticated, atmospheric textural arrangements. While the band continues to develop and make great music, this recording captures the band at what some listeners consider its apogee, as an 8-piece with Jonathan Doyle (Mighty Blue Kings, Four Charms, Tuba Skinny) jumpin’ around the skillet. This was the form of the band between 2016-2018, when they held court in Uptown on the north side every Tuesday and in Pilsen on the south side every Sunday. The band was always cookin’, the dance floor was always full, and every set seemed to build incessantly towards the ebullient chorus at the end of the show when everyone screamed as the horns stood up to take it all back home.
Uptown scintillates with virtuoso execution, and I don’t mean show-off turns; I mean good, clean, clear execution of rhythmic and melodic passages. The ensemble playing as arranged by cornetist Andy Schumm is highly complex and nuanced, sashaying through a variety of intriguing textures. From the evocative dark atmosphere of “The Spell of the Blues”, to the stride party vibe of “The Sophomore”, the cool austerity of “Sweet is the Night”, and the heartening pretty melody of “Out of a Clear Blue Sky”, this record proves this ensemble can show you around America in the ’20s and ’30s like few others can. “Out of a Clear Blue Sky” in particular compels a great sense of comfort by taking this listener back to the golden age of Hollywood cinema; this recording evokes a nostalgia of the days of radio and nightclubs a few steps below ground level.