I'm at a bit of a loss for words, other than cusses. Last night was the best night of music I've heard in months...maybe even in a year. I went to the Black Rock Tavern, not far from my house, where Nicolle Wood (of the Galaxie) was hosting a dance with a live band called the Fat Babies. The line-up was as follows:
They were brilliant. Masterful, energetic, and joyous. They played a lot of familiar trad. jazz tunes, in a style that was pitch-perfect for dancing. And the crowd there was appreciative, hooting and hollering after solos, applauding and screaming until they gave an encore, which makes it even more fun. Several times during the night folks stopped dancing during a song just to listen and clap along--I know that's become common in many places but it is a rare happening in Chicago.
There was one particular moment in the middle of the second set. In the middle of the tune, the rhythm section dropped out entirely, leaving just the horns and clarinet to play a sort of instrumental "a capella." I've heard bands do this before, though I'm not sure what it's called. It was such a striking change that I just stopped dancing to listen, along with several other couples around me. This sort of collective improvisation is really striking for its intricacy, the way they keeps the rhythm going just by implication, the tension that builds because you worry that they're going to end the number by trailing out. Then of course when the full band came back in it bowls you over like your big brother in a backyard wrestle-fest: ferocious but in a loving way. Knocked-off socks were strewn everywhere after that one.
What a night. I can't wait to hear more from this group.