“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.
Produced 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.