The classic jazz scene in Vienna started well before the second World War but actually seems to have been bolstered by the necessity of going underground. Out of the obviously somewhat bizarre setting of gigs held under the noses of storm troopers arose groups such as the combo led by Fatty George, a clarinetist influenced foremost by Benny Goodman who doubled on alto saxophone and was also known to break into song. Recording opportunities for this artist -- real name Franz Pressler -- began apace in the '50s and continued through 1980, by which time bean counters had amassed nearly 50 releases. Thus, this Complete Fatty George could not possibly be complete at a total of 71 minutes -- not that completeness should really be desired in any collection, let alone one involving a performer nicknamed "Fatty." Goulash-size servings of '50s recordings from Fatty George began showing up on compact disc during the '90s. Part of a general bolstering of respect regarding jazz scenes in a variety of European environments, the documentation garners a certain amount of attention simply for the presence of bandmembers who may have gone onto greater glory. Keyboardist Joe Zawinul is a name that pops out immediately, though not because of anything he actually plays on this CD, while the presence of players such as guitarist Oscar Klein and pianist Roland Kovac is a direct connection to the bad old days that unfortunately did not result in international fame and headliner gigs at tropical resorts. In fairness to Zawinul, his early days with Fatty George seem to be one aspect of his sideman career that he doesn't bitch about in interviews, preferring to save his invective for the likes of Miles Davis.
At least five different versions of Fatty George's combo are represented here, some as large as a sextet. A single German title and a tribute to the leader are among the few nods to actual locale,
a tendency toward travel titillatingly timed in "Manhattan," the "South East," a "Northwest Passage," and an "Afro Cubana" that will dry the rain off a soaked pant-leg. "Brooding" and "A Wild One" are examples of sometimes classical pianist Friedrich Gulda's skills when toiling as a composer of jazz , niftily executed by the fellow Austrian musicians, partisan though not in the sense of their Balkan neighbors to the south. Fatty George comes across as much less a warring faction than a lovable neighbor of Jack Teagarden's when sitting in a "Rocking Chair," "Struttin' with Some Barbecue," and especially when sipping a "Black Coffee" when so many dollops of gorgeous whipped cream are "Brooding" nearby. Aspects of some of the performances may bring to mind the rapid degeneration of the aforementioned sweetie substance. Willy Meerwald switches between bass and trumpet without a great deal of precision on either, and Alexander Lewandoske introduces the electric version of bottom end as if trying to sneak a stolen car across the old Czech border.