CD Review: The Big Phat Band

“Act Your Age” (Immergent)

By Devon Wendell

We jazz purists in pursuit of the next revolutionary original sound sometimes forget to curb our obsessive-compulsive enthusiasm and simply enjoy some fun music. Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band’s multi-Grammy nominated album “Act Your Age” is simply fun – which may be exactly what we need during these turbulent times.

gordon-goodwonProduced by Lee Ritenour, Dan Savant, and Goodwin himself, “Act Your Age” is the fourth album by this popular Southern California native and his band. Goodwin is a triple threat, playing tenor and soprano sax as well as piano over some well thought-out, funky big band arrangements.  The Big Phat Band’s stellar horn section includes familiar West Coast players such as trumpeter Wayne Bergeron, saxophonist Eric Marienthal, and trombonist Andy Martin.  There are also several special guests.  Ritenour lends his tasty guitar skills to a revamping of the Earth, Wind and Fire classic “September,” with Patti Austin on vocals.  Other guests performers include Chick Corea, Dave Grusin, and Nathan East.

Goodwin’s boldest and most satisfying move, however, is “Yesterday,” in which Art Tatum’s piano track is overdubbed with full band backing. Although the jazz world has been saturated with take after take of the Kern and Harbach standard, Goodwin’s experiment is surprisingly the album’s highlight, with an original Goodwin arrangement that showcases the dynamics of the Big Phat Band’s horns with Tatum’s remarkable piano work.

Like many of the pieces, the opening Goodwin original, “Hit The Ground Running,” feels like a cross between something from Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters period and Quincy Jones 90’s slick pop/funk orchestral explorations. Goodwin’s tenor playing, which weaves in and out of the big brass arrangements, is stylistically close to that of David Sandborn’s more polished works, but effective enough not to distract from the buoyancy of the composition.  Curiously, the Big Phat Band’s take on “Watermelon Man” sounds less like a direct nod to Hancock than some of the album’s other tracks – though Herbie’s influence is continuously evident in Goodwin’s piano work, which comes off much stronger than his sax solos.

Bottom line: Goodwin isn’t setting out to be the next Coltrane or  Ellington, but this good time music arrives at precisely the right time.

6 thoughts on “CD Review: The Big Phat Band

  1. Devon Wendell is a great Friend and truely a very talented Musican. Im very Impressed with his International Review Of Music in 2008. Keep Up the excellent work and Im looking forward to reading more in 2009..Happy New Year.. You are Beyond Jazz ..A real soul survivor Very Nice.


  2. This sounds like a FUN album.
    “curb our obsessive-compulsive enthusiasm and simply enjoy some fun music.” Exactamente! some of the highbrow jazz audience needs to “give itself a pass” lighten up with something that is not so serious (not “smooth”) but just fun. I’m very curious about the use of Art Tatum’s piano work within the mix.
    Pretty ballsy.


  3. Devon has been a friend of mine since the beginning of my myspace period. I’ve always enjoyed is comments and have always thaught hey this guy has writing skills !!!!!!!!! when I finally commented back I found we have a lot in common, Music, Life etc. I’m glad to see he is putting his talents to use.
    Nice article Devon. Hope to see more !!!!!!!!!! now I wanna find this album and give it a listen. Devon Great work !!!!!!!



  4. Well done Devon,youve sold it to me allready.It sounds boss,you’ve allways been good at describing music:)))hopefully you’ll be describing and reviewing mine soon :))Happy New Year Doc luv ya mate and boss article x


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