The Fat Cat Big Band has been electrifying crowds in New York City’s landmark jazz clubs since 2001. They’ve been described by All About Jazz as “one of the most refreshing groups to come along in years” and praised by Jazz Times “for adding to the legacy of big band music rather than emulating its past glories.” The unique eleven-piece lineup includes members of the Mingus, Vanguard, and Roy Hargrove big bands, as well as regular contributors to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and has drawn comparisons to the iconic big bands of Ellington, Basie, Mingus, Quincy Jones, and Lionel Hampton.

Fat Cat Big Band - NYC jazz big band

Despite the analogies, however, the FCBB embodies a spirit entirely its own. The band is driven by the unstoppable energy of Jade Synstelien, who leads from the guitar chair with indomitable passion. The fierce originality of his compositions and arrangements are met by heart-stopping, full-throttle performances from each player in the band.

This rainbow of blazing musical talent—from Juilliard-trained virtuosi to self-taught mavericks—captures the scope of Synstelien’s influences, which range from Mingus to Bach to Hendrix to Native American chant. Through preternatural arranging savvy and a wellspring of musical energy, the Fat Cat Big Band does with eleven cats what other ensembles struggle to achieve with nearly two dozen.

About Jade Synstelien

A veteran of jazz, world beat, reggae, ska, latin, and funk bands across the country, Jade leads the Fat Cat Big Band from a singular musical vantage point. He boasts three decades as both a studio and performing guitarist and has built a reputation as a gifted composer and arranger. Jade’s vast repertoire includes both original compositions and ambitious interpretations of works by Strayhorn, Mingus, Mozart, Beethoven, and more. Whether composed from scratch or arranged in homage, his music displays an uncanny sense for traditional arranging and songwriting, but speaks with a musical voice that is undeniably Synstelien. The result is a listening experience at once accessible, studied, and unfailingly unique.

Jade is also a lauded interpreter of classical music for solo guitar and has transcribed numerous works by Bach, Handel, Scarlatti Telemann, and more. Jade’s three collections of transcriptions can be purchased on Amazon: Johann Sebastian Bach: 15 Two-Part Inventions for Solo Guitar (2013), Fugues and Canons for Solo Guitar (2016), and 13 Three-Voice Fugues for Solo Guitar (2017). Visit to learn more and download free transcriptions.

The Fat Cat Big Band is:

Jade Synstelien   Guitar, composition, arrangements

Phil Stewart   Drums

Dan Blankinship   Trumpet

Brandon Lee   Trumpet

James Burton, III   Trombone

Max Seigel   Bass Trombone


Alexi David   Bass

Jack Glottman   Piano

Jon Irabagon   Tenor & Soprano Sax

Jonathan Beshay   Tenor Sax

Caleb Curtis   Alto Sax, Flute