GORDON GOODWIN As winner of the 2006 Grammy Award for his Instrumental Arrangement of Incredits from the Pixar film The Incredibles, as well as three-time Emmy Award winner and five-time Grammy nominee, you would think that Goodwin had fulfilled his dreams and achieved all of his goals. Not by a long shot. He has yet another channel for success as leader of L.A.’s most exciting 18-piece big band jazz ensemble, Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band.
The Big Phat Band has quickly become one of the most hard swinging large jazz ensembles, comprised of L.A.’s finest musicians, which celebrates and personifies the best of the big band tradition with a very contemporary and original sound. Gordon’s witty and insightful arrangements propel the listener on a journey through a myriad of styles: latin, blues, swing, classical, hard-hitting jazz, and even an homage to Looney Tunes (!)....
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Big Phat Band Review
Comprised mostly of little-known but highly capable West Coast studio musicians ex-Chuck Mangione guitarist Grant Geissman was the most recognizable name the Big Phat Band delivered Goodwin’s charts with unflagging energy and an appropriately professional polish. Trombonist Andy Martin and tenor saxophonist Brian Scanlon stood out among the soloists; trumpeter Rick Sorenson skillfully supplied the high note work; and drummer Bernie Dresel proved adept at powering the 18-member ensemble through a variety of grooves.
As for Goodwin, his piano playing was mostly setup and punctuation, though he did show off some nice chops during one brief solo on “Swinging For The Fences” (an extended reimagining of “Sweet Georgia Brown”), and even picked up a tenor sax for a swinging chorus on “Count Bubba’s Revenge”.
As a composer/arranger, he seems still in the process of assimilating his various influences, but nevertheless is capable of some inventive and colorful writing - one standout example being the sax section feature that opened “Hunting Wabbits,” a tribute to the Warner Brothers cartoon scores that featured the music of composer Carl Stalling. High Maintenance was an effective concert opener, the sort of chart that used to be called a flag waver, and El Macho Muchacho was a piquant cross-border blend of salsa, samba and country guitar licks from Geissman.
Goodwin also did a nice job expanding his slight theme for the film Attack of The Killer Tomatoes into a full-length big band piece, morphing it into an evocative minor-key blues. Less successful was a superfluous cover version of “Play That Funky Music,” which seemed to exist mostly to give alto saxophonist Sal Lozano a chance to show off a frantic pastiche of Dave Sanborn and Maceo Parker licks.
Overall, the Big Phat Band is a slick outfit that puts on an entertaining show, and other jazz groups might even learn a bit from their presentational style...