Photos by Lou Montesano
Don’t be deceived by the name: Popa Chubby is no joke. He’s a solid blues guitarist who’s equally comfortable venturing into jazz and swing. With his shaved head and tattoos, he professes to prefer his rock on the dangerous side, but like so many big men, he’s a gentle giant who just wants everyone to have a good time.
Born Ted Horowitz in the Bronx, Chubby has attracted a loyal following on the New York club scene by playing nearly non-stop for the past two decades. Among his favorite haunts is Iridium, located on Broadway in the heart of Midtown. Perhaps owing to its heritage as a jazz club, Iridium possesses a laid-back vibe and pristine acoustics. On a December night as the weather was turning wintry, Chubby pulled up a chair on the Iridium’s venerable stage to celebrate the release of his new CD, The Catfish, and cover a range of blues and rock standards. With Conrad St. Clair on bass, Richie Monica on drums and the aptly named Dave Keyes on keyboards, Chubby offered his takes on “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” “Suzie Q” and the Hendrix classics (he’s an unabashed Jimi fanatic) “Little Wing” and “The Wind Cries Mary.” In addition to the title track from the new CD, Chubby showed off his jazz chops on “Wes Is More,” a tribute to Wes Montgomery, and a charming instrumental cover of “Bye Bye Love.”
Having recently returned from club dates in Europe, Chubby’s “Blues for Charlie” displayed his solidarity with fans in France after the devastating attacks at Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan concert hall. He will be returning to Europe for an extended tour beginning in January, after which we can only hope he’ll be back playing in his hometown. Popa Chubby has an extensive catalog of CDs, including many live recordings that offer a glimpse of why his fans keep coming back for more.