Jumbo Shrimp Jazz Band, “Live at the Spotted Cat” (Independent)

As George Carlin once said, the phrase “jumbo shrimp” is a contradiction in terms. As Carlin didn’t say, so is a progressive traditional band. But the Jumbo Shrimp Jazz Band is exactly that, a band that honors tradition while taking plenty of liberties with its arrangements. Take their version of “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble,” which closes out this live disc. It begins like most versions, with a funeral dirge that leads into the second line. But Russell Welch’s electric guitar is the wild card and he makes good of the solo space he gets, doing the kind of skittering solo that Marc Ribot might play on a Tom Waits record. Instead of throwing the band off, it only makes them charge back in with that much more fervor.

The arrangements are just as freewheeling throughout: Their “Sunny Afternoon” isn’t especially faithful to the Kinks’ original, but they don’t go old-timey with it either. Instead they rock it up with horns, letting singer/leader Colin Myers solo up a storm on trombone. Since they’re a young band on a live album, they risk erring on the side of exuberance, getting a bit loungey/campy on the Sinatra standard “Young at Heart”. But the high spirits are usually just what the songs call for, and their best tracks are the ones at daredevil speed: “Mahogany Hall Stomp” puts some rockabilly into their Dixieland, and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” ends with a bunch of frantic guitar/drum exchanges, and a couple false endings for good measure. If all 65 minutes of this CD were recorded at the same set, and the Spotted Cat was as crowded as it can get, one can only hope there was a doctor in the house.