Fat Cat Big Band: Prayer for Unconditional Love
Prayer for Unconditional Love
Fat Cat Big Band
Meditations on the War for Whose Great God is the Most High You are God (Smalls SRCD-0042)
Jade Synstelien (guitar, composer),
Fat Cat Big Band with soloist Stacy Dillard (tenor sax).
Composed and arranged by Jade Synstelien.
Recorded: New York, July 15 or 16, 2008
Rating: 85/100 (learn more)
Fat Cat Big Band reminds me of bands led by Horace Silver (on his 1975 album Silver and Brass) and to a lesser extent David Murray (his Live at Sweet Basil albums from the late '80s). Like those groups, Fat Cat isn't a full-grown behemoth. It's a cut-down big band, with three saxes, two trumpets, and two trombones instead of the usual four or five of each. Such a relatively compact alignment lessens the threat of elephantine grandiosity.
Fat Cat's leader and composer, guitarist Jade Synstelien, writes nice, melodic tunes with colorful harmonies; he favors finesse over power. "Prayer for Unconditional Love" well represents his work: a jazz waltz with a Middle-Eastern tinge, a tuneful melody is supported by tight harmonies in the horns and a lightly swinging rhythm section. The arrangement is simpleóbasically head-solo-head, with tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard taking the middle section. Formal complexity doesn't concern Synstelien as much as writing attractive melodies with interesting harmonies and orchestrations.
The band plays with a loose precision that suits the rather casual air of Synstelien's style. No delusions of grandeur here. Fat Cat might have a Kenton-lover checking the batteries in his hearing aid. A Birth of the Cool fan, on the other hand, might dig this music very much.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey