Fat Suit – Waifs and Strays

Album Review | Equinox Records | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 5/5

Fat Suit are, as the name might uncharitably suggest a big band and Waifs & Strays, their forth album is expansive and far reaching with an incredible twenty eight musicians listed on the sleeve. Unlike the outfits namesake however their music is never grotesque, out-sized or cumbersome. This is a big band with a big sound featuring broad strokes, textures and soloists. The arrangements and writing is a delight throughout an album that fizzes with interest from its opening to its fade.

“Rumblings” opens with some Ellington brass sounds and 70s Cop TV show theme funk. There is a massive groove and some almost Prog keyboards, but the star is soloist Fraser Jackson’s electric guitar with touches of fusion Jeff Beck, Dave Gilmour’s wobbled notes and Zappa’s bent notes. A superb opener with the recording really putting my speakers through their paces. “Keo” has a more knotty time signature allowing drummer Mark Scobbie to show off with some fine stops and starts. Mateusz Sobieski’s funky and some times barbed Tenor Saxophone pushes out some huge notes like full bodied red wine. The track builds and builds, with a huge peak in the middle that decays to a rhythm section and electronics complex dance, both the build and the tap like stuttering dance are a funky joy. “The Crane And The Crow” features two definite voices. A big triumphant storming opening and a more questioning sparse section for Johnny Woodham’s very Nordic sounding muted trumpet then finally Woodham’s flies over the rest of the band.

“Countryside Quiet” is more folky and pastoral with Corrina Hewat’s Harp, strings and some beautiful piano building up a rich Celtic interlude that is reflective and meditative after the earlier stomp. “Brum Doing A Wheelie” is a glorious mash up of brass, pulsing keyboards, Hitchcock cinematic strings, some huge sounding runs the drum kit and a wonderfully upbeat  keyboard solo. “Caretaker” is big tight and thumping  with Brass and huge bass notes funkily beating out a rhythm while Liam Shortall’s Trombone fires out sliding notes and salvos, again my Amp and Speakers were put through their paces. Wonderfully inventive Ska Brass and dubby electronics closing section too. “Uh-Oh” is again knotty and twisting with some of those mid 70’s Frank Zappa textured stops and starts that only a very tight band can do. Liam Shortall’s Trombone muscles through again and the whole piece doesn’t let up for a minute from its Average White Band “Pick Up The Pieces” guitar riff, to its shimmering keyboard funk, some joyous Brass flourishes, restrained solos from Sobieski’s Tenor and a final freak out. If that it is Davie Dinsmuir’s guitar that opens “Mombasa” then it is a thing of beauty on the quiet section and the muscular blasts that come afterwards. Or it might be Gus Stirrat’s Bass that smoulders through the intro. Anyone who thinks Jazz has become beard stroking music appreciated from an armchair needs to hear this big bodied swaggering stomp that still manages to flutter and sparkle at the same time. Closer “Lunar Milk” is more subdued and reflective but still with that body builder strength and power. After a beautiful opening Alan Benzie conjours up a Miles Davis In a Silent Way keyboard interlude while the strings soothe. This in album that shifts slowly through moods and colours like a lava lamp. Turn your back for a moment and something striking has shifted and changed musics or idioms to go elsewhere while still locked into the groove. This is modern electric jazz for people who like jazz and irrepressible expansive instrumental music for people who hate jazz. Fat Suit? Phat Suit more like.