When, in 2008, I reviewed the superb ‘Act Your Age’ by Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band I described it as “an album that often sneaks a peak backwards toward our musical heritage but in doing so never looses sight of the here and now. It is fresh, different and the perfect vehicle with which to widen jazz horizons.” In fact much the same can be said about the band’s latest project, ‘That’s How We Roll’ which was released, April 12 on the Telarc label, a division of Concord Music Group.
Composer and arranger Gordon Goodwin certainly has an impressive resume. A 2006 GRAMMY Award winner for his arrangement of ‘Incredits’ from the Pixar film The Incredibles, Gordon has also enjoyed eleven more Grammy nominations and picked up three Emmy Awards along the way. Since 2000, Goodwin has been the driving force behind his own creation Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band and ‘That’s How We Roll’ is the band’s sixth CD release.
The Big Phat Band is an eighteen piece ensemble which for ‘That’s How We Roll’ is supplemented by several notable guest artists. These include Dave Koz and Gerald Albright who for ‘Rippin n Runnin’ add their combined sax power to that of Big Phat regular Eric Marienthal and in so doing blow up a collective storm. From the line-up one might have expected something along the lines of ‘smooth jazz meets big band’ but in fact the delightful outcome is three great players having fun with a different genre.
Elsewhere Marcus Miller is also included but a performance of show-stopping proportions comes from those quality collaborators Take 6 with a rendition of the Goodwin composed ‘Just Enough’. Gordon had previously worked with Take 6 and wrote the tune with them specifically in mind. His wife Lisa Goodwin added the vocals and the result is both a person favourite and arguably the album’s best track.
‘Just Enough’ is one of nine Goodwin compositions with the one cover, (if it really can be called that), coming in the form of Gershwin’s seminal ‘Rhapsody In Blue’. This amazing re-imagining of a timeless classic has become a firm favourite in the band’s live shows and received a rave reception when recently performed at the Hollywood Bowl.
Built on a bed of technical excellence and a love for the music, the nostalgia which ‘That’s How We Roll’ generates for the big band era never threatens originality. Indeed, Gordon Goodwin has created a remarkably current piece of work that, without doubt, is one of the most interesting of the year so far.