Gordon Goodwin

April 18, 2011

If Gordon Goodwin never wrote, performed, or arranged music again, he’d already have made his mark. As a successful Hollywood composer, Goodwin has racked up eleven Grammy nominations (winning an award in 2006 for his Instrumental Arrangement of “Incredits” from the film, “The Incredibles”) and three Emmy Awards. As a performer (keyboards, woodwinds) he’s collaborated with the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Mel Torme, Quincy Jones, John Williams, and Christina Aguilera, to name just a few.

Happily, he’s not one to rest on past achievements and with the 18-member Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Gordon is bringing large ensemble jazz to whole new audiences by infusing the music with his wide-ranging tastes.

1. John Williams – Catch Me if You Can, Soundtrack

John Williams leaves them all behind. He is still writing music at a prolific rate, and this score is a great example of his jazz chops. Maybe you can argue that other composers could have written “Star Wars,” but to have the skill set to write dramatic orchestral music and a score like this one? Only J.W.

2. Take 6 – So Much to Say

They have learned the lessons of the Hi-Los and The Singers Unlimited but also of Earth, Wind and Fire. They are still at the top of their game, singing complex vocal arrangements with impeccable pitch, time and feel. Got to love my guys in Take 6.

3. Thad Jones Mel Lewis – “TipToe”

This might be my all-time favorite big band arrangement. It is simply sublime, with the great Snooky Young playing that awesome plunger solo. And I love that sax section, lead by Jerome Richardson. Thad was an original, one of my biggest influences as a writer.

4. Pat Williams – Aurora

So great to see Pat get this record out there. His ability to combine orchestral and jazz influences in an organic way is impressive, and the band is clearly having a blast playing his great charts.

5. Earth, Wind & Fire – “In the Stone”

Man, back in the day pop music had melodies as well as some serious grooves! I went to school taking those grooves apart and checking them out. That band had such a sense of joy in their tunes, too, and was totally infectious! Still is.

6. Sinatra at the Sands with the Count Basie Orchestra – “Luck Be A Lady”

One of our greatest singers and our greatest big bands, both at their prime, man I would have loved to be there back at these concerts! Just completely swinging stuff, with Marshall Royal and his great alto sound leading the saxes with great charts by Quincy and Billy Byers. Love that Basie band!

7. Hiromi – “I’ve Got Rhythm”

Simply astonishing playing. And a really cool arrangement, too. Hiromi’s great technique is obvious enough to hear, but she also has great stylistic range and is wonderfully spontaneous as an improviser, open to any direction the music might go. Her joy in playing music is a pleasure to behold.

8. Victor Wooten – “U Can’t Hold No Groove”

Victor is an infectious talent and has a pocket that won’t quit, along with an instantly identifiable sound and style. The guy plays like crazy, writes music, novels, you get the feeling he could do pretty much whatever he wanted to.

9. William Walton – “Variations on a Theme by Hindemith”

This piece is so totally happening, and I’ve loved it for years. It’s very hip rhythmically, essentially tonal, but with some unexpected harmonic moves and a playful sense of fun throughout. I’ve learned a great deal over the years from studying the score.

10. Cannonball Adderley – “Who Cares?”

Here I am at the end of this thing and am reminded why I hate lists like this – I haven’t gotten to Steve Wonder or Oscar Peterson or Michael Brecker or well, anyway, let’s just close out with my favorite alto player, playing with Bill Evans, also a big influence for me. Cannonball’s sound is full of life, his time rock solid, his sense of soul and groove, unsurpassed.


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