Big and “phat” big band jams with campus cool is the recipe that Gordon Goodwin uses to try to freshen up the big band sounds that were most popular in the 1930s and 1940s.
Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band is scheduled to perform a mix of originals and a medley of songs by Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington at a Twilight Dance Series concert starting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, August 18th, on the Santa Monica Pier, (ocean end of Colorado Avenue), Santa Monica. Admission is free.
Goodwin, who doubles as an Emmy Award-winning film and television music composer with credits on films such as The Incredibles, National Treasure and Coach Carter, specifically focuses on including young people in the marketing of his big band music. The band often plays at middle schools, high schools and universities.
“We want to dispel the notion that this is old, moldy music,” says Goodwin.
“School orchestras are one of the places that jazz and big band music has survived, and we find that teenagers have a tremendous interest in seeing a professional big band rather than just a trio or small combo because it’s more likely they can actually see their instrument being played,” says Goodwin.
“There’s a lot of energy in big band music,” he says. “Anyone who has stood in front and watched a big band play knows that it’s not that much different than seeing a rock band.”
Goodwin keeps his band the historically popular big band size of 18 members. In addition to be bop and rock ‘n’ roll sweeping the nation in the late 1940s and 1950s, the economics of maintaining such a large ensemble is often cited as the key factor in the waning of big bands and swing music.
But now, in an era of downsized paydays for musicians, Goodwin is somehow able to keep an 18-piece lineup afloat that includes a number of stars in the worlds of jazz and pop.
Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band members include saxophonist Eric Marienthal, who performs with Chick Correa and The Rippingtons and has a substantial solo career; Louis Conte, who tours with Phil Collins and James Taylor; and Bernie Dresel, drummer for the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
“It’s amazing with such accomplished musicians how well we all work together as a team. Nobody tries to add extra notes or bits of tremolo, ego-driven things like that. We stick to playing the music as one entity,” says Goodwin.
Though the Big Phat Band has been around for only five years now, Goodwin began his attempts to put together a big band decades ago.
“There were times when I said to myself, ‘I can’t do this. This is such an incredible hassle. Is this really worth it?'” says Goodwin.
“But I was able to make in-roads as a film and television composer, and now I’m amazed at the guys who are involved with the project.”
“Guys like Eric Marienthal are unbelievably gracious, too. He’s come up to me and been like ‘Thank you for letting me play in the band,’ and I’m taken aback and I’m like, ‘No, thank you for wanting to play in the band,'” says Goodwin.
The band has gone from doing a few gigs a year at its start to now doing a few gigs a month, including some touring and an invitation to play shows in China.
The Santa Monica Pier performance will feature special guest clarinetist Eddie Daniels, who will join the ensemble in a tribute to mark the 70th anniversary of the Benny Goodman concert that took place on August 21st, 1935, at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, an event which is noted by jazz historians as the concert that ushered in the age of swing and big band music.
Silverline Records released two Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band albums this year, titled Swingin’ for the Fences and XXL.
Information, (310) 458-8900.