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Where's the snap?

Livin' Large
Livin' Large
By Fattburger

Shanachie: 1995

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This review first appeared in the March 3, 1995 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Local combo Fattburger, that late-night smooth jazz combo that went from packing them in at the now-defunct Old P.B. Cafe in San Diego to the top of the instrumental music charts, is back with a new album on a new label: "Livin' Large" on Shanachie's Cachet jazz imprint.

Founding members Tommy Aros (percussion), Carl Evans Jr. (keyboards), Mark Hunter (bass) and Kevin Koch (drums) remain, along with new guitarist Evan Marks. But if the original players are back, the original spark seems to be missing from the new outing. Not even the presence of founding member Hollis Gentry III (saxophones) as guest can jump-start the album. (It was Gentry, along with trumpeter Bruce Cameron, who assembled the core of Fattburger as the Bruce Cameron-Hollis Gentry Jazz Ensemble before both leaders ended up leaving before the band changed its name and took off.)

The problem with this new album is that the band holds the same easy-listening groove throughout every song. The band's hallmark has been its mix of R&B wtih pop-jazz instrumentals for a unique sound that lifted Fattburger agove the rest of the smooth-jazz crowd. Most of their albums have also featured one or two especially memorable tunes that grabbed your attention.

But none of that is present here – not the sn apping bass lines laid down over a funked-up percussive groove, not the soaring melodies. "Livin' Large" just kind of coasts along, not heading anywhere, and never arriving.