Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band – Act Your Age – Immergent Records 281147-2, 2 discs, CD: 60:12 & audio DVD with DD 5.1 surround *****:
Another winner from one of the most dynamic and original big bands on recordings today. This is number five of their Immergent releases (including a Christmas album I seem to have missed – “Bah, Humduck!”) I admit I was at first disappointed to see that this was not a DVD-Audio as was their first efforts, but instead a Dolby Digital surround standard DVD. But it’s stuffed with loads of special features: videos of three of the tunes shot during a live concert the band gave in New Hampshire, commentary by Goodwin on all dozen tracks, a photo gallery, printed-out solo transcriptions of all the tracks, detailed on-screen liner notes about each tune, an audio conversation with Lee Ritenour (who produced the album with Goodwin), Goodwin and Dan Savant, Bios and photos of each of the band members, an option to make your own mix of two of the tracks, and something called “Big Phat Jam” Winners. Whew! I was also very pleased with the fidelity of the DD 5.1 surround – just as good as the super-high-res 96K DVD-A audio. Perhaps it is using the highest sampling rate allowed by standard DD 5.1 now. It was interesting to see no credits for Dolby at all – I thought that was a requirement. The on-screen menu clearly shows a choice between Dolby Digital 5.1 or Stereo.
All sorts of great guesting stints on are here: Both Chick Corea and Dave Grusin show up on one track each, plus Grusin’s cohort guitarist Lee Ritenour. Vocalist Patti Austin is heard on Earth, Wind and Fire’s September, and the most unusual guest on the album is the late Art Tatum! The producers took the Zenph Studios recreation [we reviewed it Here] of one of Tatum’s classic recordings on 78 rpm – Kern’s Yesterdays – and Gordon wrote a chart for the band surrounding the new hi-res surround version of Tatum’s performance on the Yamaha Disklavier Pro. The result is mind-blowing. Throughout the album, one finds Goodwin’s composing and arranging skills and originality to be totally impressive, and all his soloists are top flight. The lavish bunch of useful special features seems to be inspired by the almost overkill of AIX Records on their DVD-As. And best of all, this packed package is only $11 at Amazon right now!
– John Henry