Review Summary: jazz, swing, latin and funk all mixed into one spectacular CD.
Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band is really the suave of big band music at the moment. After the demise of big band in the early 1950’s there really hasn’t been much going for the genre in modern times. Thankfully we have the Big Phat Band. The third album from Gordon Goodwin’s brilliant group is aptly titled, The Phat Pack
. A collection of classic rag time jazz and upbeat big band originals penned by Gordon Goodwin himself, The Phat Pack
is an album showing us the genre of big band is far from dead.
Two vocal charts are really good representatives of how this jack-of-all-trades big band are making music for all to enjoy. With the Sinatra classic ‘It Was A Very Good Year’ and the old time favourite ‘Too Close For Comfort’ getting brand new arrangements from Goodwin. The sound is incredibly crisp and the vocal work from Dianne Reeves is beyond fantastic. The splendid thing about The Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band is that you really never know what you are going to get, as the music can veer from straight swing to Latin, shuffle, funk and then back again. A good example of this is the wild variety found in ‘Hunting Wabbits 2’ which is a salute to Elmer Fudd, the composer of the Warner Bros. music from the 40’s to 50’s. Also the title track ‘The Phat Pack’ really throws a punch. Very high trumpet work, to impossible baritone sax soloing, this chart is absolute mayhem in the best possible way. The tune swirls a travels through a hearty chorus section, the rhythm section hold quite a tight grouping, while the brass play an almost impossible bridge line that will have you gobsmacked in the way the pull out if it straight into the smooth solo section. To top off all this monumental sounding big band, the band have even done a cover of ‘Play That Funky Music’, with the arrangement taking the song up a step, and lovely call and response coming from the brass and saxophone sections through the intro, this was arranged basically so the saxophone section could show off, plus the chart is possibly made more funkier than ever before.
While all this funk, Latin and old time groove shop has been filling up the album, probably one of Goodwin’s greatest works to date is hiding amongst it all at the end of the album. ‘Ever Braver, Ever Stronger (An American Elegy)’, is an amazing piece of music. Goodwin has written the 18 piece band a chart of music that could be almost considered a neo-classical masterpiece. The brass section play some of the most touching melodies, while the saxophones lay heavy vibrato underneath giving it quite the July 4th feel. To be honest this music would not go astray in the ending credits of ‘Independence Day’, though that is what Goodwin is trying to capture. Not being an American, this shouldn’t change the view of this lovely piece of music, as it raises goose bumps with each listen.
Gordon Goodwin is really at the forefront of Big Band at the moment, as each album takes out numerous Grammy’s. It just goes to show that Big Band is not dead, and albums like The Phat Pack
are definitely strengthening the jazz scene. There may never be another Miles Davis, but that doesn’t matter, because we have a Gordon Goodwin for times being.