Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band – That’s How We Roll – Telarc TEL-32363-02, 1.1 hours [Distr. by Concord] (4/12/11)*****:
This is an 18-piece ensemble of top West Coast studio musicians that is set up similar to the big bands of the 30s and 40s, but playing with a lot more up to date sound, hard and fast rhythms and often astonishing virtuosity. Elements of Basie and Ellington are heard, mixed with fusion and pop sounds such as Tower of Power and Stevie Wonder. This is their sixth recording, and my only complaint is that it is not hi-res surround as were their earlier releases.
Gordon Goodwin is a busy studio keyboardist, saxist, composer, arranger and conductor who has a Grammy under his belt. He was involved in the soundtrack of the animated feature The Incredibles, and also worked on the new sci-fi movie I Am Number Four. His band has been going for a decade now, and although from a revenue standpoint it’s still a hobby, Goodwin says it pays off in other ways. He plays both piano and tenor sax in his band as well as leading it. After working at catering to the whims of Hollywood big shots he enjoys being in control of the sound of his Big Phat Band. Reedist Eric Marienthal is a standout on most of the tracks, along with five others in the reed section. Goodwin’s coterie of musicians has remained much the same for ten years, and this time around they are joined by some topflight guests: Saxists Dave Koz and Gerald Albright are heard on “Rippin ‘n Running,’” and electric bassist Marcus Miller solos on “Never Enough,” joined by the vocal sextet Take 6. Goodwin participates on B-3 for that track.
The first nine tracks are all Goodwin originals, and they all exhibit an exciting upbeat feeling, leavened with plenty of good humor and pop music influences. On earlier albums Goodwin showed a connection to the music and actions of Bugs Bunny cartoons with different versions of “Hunting Wabbits” – this CD gives us No. 3 on that theme. For the grand finale Goodwin hones his arranging chops to the utmost for a very contemporary seven-and-one-half-minute Readers’ Digest version of Gershwin’s classic Rhapsody in Blue.
1. That’s How We Roll
2. Howdiz Songo?
3. Rippin’ n Runnin’
4. Hunting Wabbits 3 (Get Off My Lawn)
6. Gaining on You
7. Never Enough
8. It’s Not Polite To Point
9. Race To The Bridge
10. Rhapsody In Blue
— John Henry