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Album Review

It isn't easy to keep a big band together, but Gordon Goodwin has come up with various strategies to maintain his Big Phat Band since its founding at the turn of the 21st century. Although the band is a vehicle for his writing and arranging, Goodwin has not been shy about bringing on eye-catching guest stars and trying new things, whether that meant having Johnny Mathis sing a number or Dave Sanborn contribute to a reading of "Play That Funky Music." He has been rewarded with Grammy nominations and stratospheric sales (for this style of music, that is) in the 15,000-20,000 range. Act Your Age, the fourth Big Phat Band album (not counting the group's 2006 soundtrack to Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas) again reveals Goodwin's marketing savvy. Deliberately offered up just before the deadline for the 2008 Grammy Awards, it boasts a bevy of guests including Chick Corea, who recreates his "Senor Mouse"; Patti Austin, singing a cover of Earth, Wind & Fire's "September"; electric bassist Nathan East, taking the lead role on the title tune; Dave Grusin, playing on his "Punta Del Soul"; the album's producer, Lee Ritenour, adding electric guitar to "September" and "Punta Del Soul"; and, um, "Art Tatum." The quotation marks are necessary since the Tatum contribution is virtual, courtesy of an electronic process by which a Tatum performance of "Yesterdays" from 1949 was digitized, then re-performed by a Diskclavier, accompanied by a big band arrangement provided by Goodwin. Traditionalists will cringe, of course, but Goodwin doesn't care about them. He cares about reanimating big-band music. Funnily enough, he does that most consistently on the tracks that don't have any guests or gimmicks, and they actually take up a good part of a long disc, just not, for the most part, in the early sequencing, where the guest stars are found. As the album goes on, Goodwin's charts turn out to be punchy and inventive, and he is abetted by a precise and enthusiastic ensemble. He may have included more tangential elements than big band fans would prefer, but there is some undeniable contemporary big-band music on this album. (On CD copies of Act Your Age, "Floating Home," the album's final track, is available as a download-only track, not on the disc itself.)

Customer Reviews

YAY! (well maybe)

Just discovered Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band a few months ago, and just logged on to buy the rest of XXL (a previous CD by the band) and just found this NEW CD has just been released...whoop! I think its an OK CD, but I think the arrangements on previous CD's do justice to the expertise to the band...this one perhaps doesn't live up to the others. In fact, the band has ruined the song September with vulgar, unsubtle key changes...not cleverly written whatsoever. If the purpose was to massacre a great pop song then mission accomplished Gordon! However, in contrast to this Backrow Politics provides a comical relief to the bizarre large amount of Latin esque songs dumped onto this CD, which all seem to roll into one another with no character to distinguish between them. Backrow Politics also showcases the trumpets of the band, which is a rarity for this band as Gordon loves his sax solos (even though they are awesome)! In summary, I'm so thrilled to see that the band is still active and producing new CDs, its just a shame that the quality of pieces of such classics as High Maintenance, Count Bubbas Revenge etc can not be replicated again...oh well! Worth buying if you're a fan, if you're new to the band I would look to previous records first.

He's Back!!!

Hi. My name is Matthew and I recently got into Gordon Goodwin through my youth Jazz Band and I now wonder how i survived with out him. I decided to get ahead of the game and get his new album and boy was I pleased. I may only be 16 but I know good music when I hear it. Gordon Goodwin had a lot to live up to after his three previous albums, which were all awesome, though maybe this may have worked against his newest works. The album is very good with quite a funky feel to many of the tracks such as "Hit The Ground Running" and the title track but contrasts well with the latin feel of "Senor Mouse" and "East Coast Envy". I also think that his re-working of Hancock's standard "Watermelon Man" is both clever and effective. I hate to say that, despite the cleverness and feeling that live in the tracks, this new album maybe doesn't live up to the others. The album does feel like it's missing something and I don't like the version of "september" because it feels really nasty and tacky (Having said this I think this is just due to the singing and the band plays excellently). But this is just because of my personal tastes. I would strongly recommend this to any Goodwin fans and general jazz lovers, but if you're new to Goodwin try "XXL" or The "Phat Pack" first.

A good solid album, but...

Well, I'm pretty sure this was an eagerly awaited album not just for the Big Phat Band fans like me but also for Goodwins publishing company. The success of his play-a-long books and sales of his arrangements I feel have asserted an influence (possibly a sub-conscious one) on the style and song selection on this album. Whilst there are frightening passages of instrumental decadence there are far fewer on this than on previous albums. Dare I suggest that the presence of some simpler tracks is to satisfy the hoards of band directors across the USA who want to play Goodwin charts but perhaps don't have Eric Marienthal sat on their front row or Wayne Bergeron on lead Tpt!? This thought aside it is really refreshing to hear any Goodwin chart, be it an arrangement or one of his own pieces. I really wish he would be allowed a free leash to produce an album with all his new compositions and really showcase the amazingly tight and precise sections he has in the band, after all they swing like no other band out there and can play much more demanding charts than this album suggests. A criticism from the 'real' jazzers has been that Goodwins band is too tight and clean sounding, this album will do nothing to sway this opinion and Goodwin probably doesn't concern himself with that, the high level of sound production leads itself to this clean sound, I for one appreciate it as a strongpoint. In summary, everything Goodwin touches is more than worthy of appraisal and no Big Phat Band fan should be without the album. Backrow Politics is simply a great track and is very entertaining if seen live, and Hit the Ground Running is a pretty decent full pace track to kick the album off with. Goodwin has invigorated thousands of younger players with his fresh approach and multimedia savvy, I hope his first three albums didn't set the bar too high and that the BPB can keep focused on playing astonishing ensemble big band music.

Act Your Age, Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band
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Customer Ratings