The Fat Babies wring the kitsch out of trad jazz | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

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The Fat Babies wring the kitsch out of trad jazz

The vitality and commitment of these hardworking Chicago preservationists make antique songs feel brand-new.


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  • Rebecca Ciprus
  • The Fat Babies

When the Fat Babies began their residency at the Green Mill in 2012, they very nearly started the same kind of furor that the Mighty Blue Kings did with their 90s gigs at that club. Granted, the Kings kicked off a craze for jump blues in the Windy City, and the Fat Babies haven't done the same thing for traditional jazz from the 20s and 30s. But they undoubtedly know the music well—their original tunes are almost indistinguishable from the vintage numbers they re-create.

Fat Babies
Fri 8/30, 8 PM, SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston, $15, all ages
Sat 8/31, 1:50-2:45 PM, Von Freeman Pavilion

The Fat Babies were founded in 2010 by bassist Beau Sample, who'd worked in a variety of roots-music genres (rockabilly, blues, et cetera) in Austin, Texas, before coming to Chicago in 2007 and playing with the likes of Jimmy Sutton's Four Charms and Devil in a Woodpile. The same dexterity he's displayed in other groups also animates the Fat Babies, giving them a solid foundation and the necessary bottom end. They have four albums under their own name for the Delmark label, which shares their commitment to traditional jazz, and the most recent, Uptown, came out earlier this month. Like any old-timey genre, trad jazz is so frequently reinterpreted as kitsch that less-informed audiences only know the bastardized version, but the sophisticated arrangements and committed performances on Uptown don't sound like jokes at anybody's expense. And judging by the crowds on the dance floor for the Fat Babies' Tuesday nights at the Mill (and their successful recent residency at Honky Tonk BBQ), they've done a great job of righting wrongs by exposing the roots of this music.  v

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