Live Jazz: The Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band at Vitello’s

By Tony Gieske

Gordon Goodwin is one bandleader who really knows how to fill a room. I don’t know why his band looked so big. He doesn’t have strings or French horns or anything. But it seemed to fill half the upstairs room at Vitello’s Monday.

The Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band Phills Vitello's

I guess it’s just kind of a phat band, or Phat band, as he proclaimed on a wall-filling red, white and blue banner. I thought maybe he might have Pol Pot on trumpet, or maybe Phats Navarro.

Willie Murillo

No, it was a guy named Willie Murillo, who got off  alarming growl trumpet solos in the course of “Rhapsody in Blue.” Goodwin’s chart on this would have gladdened Gershwin’s melancholy heart. It rolled along like George’s old man river, only phaster.

And like every other number all night long, it swung, boldly and impeccably.   A player could not very well help doing that with the great Bernie Dressel, of Alf Clausen’s “The Simpsons” band and the Miles Evans band, at the drums.

Bernie Dressel

The great Wayne Bergeron, whose chops were a little down, ceded the trumpet glory to Murillo and later to the great Bob Summers, who devised a poised and well designed chorus or two on a classic ballad.

A charming looking young gent named Andrew Synowiec played electric guitar with clarity and momentum, and the bassist, Rick Shaw, had everybody’s back, no trivial  feat since there were 18 up there.

Fortunately, Shaw was working with a Panormo-style bass, a large, broad-shouldered Italian-bred instrument with a Stenholm “C” extension that  lowers the E string to a C.

Andy Martin

Among the other commanding soloists  were the renowned Andy Martin on trombone; the expert Brian  Scanlon, Jeff Driskill  and Sal Lozano on saxophones and fearless Jay Masen on baritone saxophone.

Aside from the stomach-turning red uniforms, what you remembered was this band’s bright but brawny precision — tight, agile and plenteous — and the masterly writing by Goodwin, which is as it should be with his training as a film  scorer on  FernGully: The Last Rainforest, The Majestic, Glory Road, National Treasure, Remember the Titans, Armageddon, Star Trek: Nemesis, The Incredibles, Hot Rod, Get Smart, Snakes on a Plane, Race to Witch Mountain, Coach Carter, Bad Boys II, Con Air and Gone in 60 Seconds.

The Big Phat Brasses

As well as the beloved classic, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, his score for which the Phat boys sliced and salted with, uh, relish.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  To read and see more of Tony’s essays and photos at his personal web site click HERE.

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