Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band: XXL

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Rest assured, big-band fans, that Gordon Goodwin is not trying to push those ensembles into modernity with his Big Phat Band’s XXL, despite his use of the word “phat.” While various styles are employed here, none of them would have discomfited audiences of the 1970s. Rather, Goodwin simply believes that “the big band genre can be contemporary, vibrant and alive,” as he puts it in the liner notes, and he’s written some densely detailed compositions and arrangements for his hand-picked band to play in an attempt to provide Exhibit A.

And there are certainly some hard-swinging performances on XXL. “A Game of Inches,” featuring a guest solo by Michael Brecker, ranges far and wide over its basic materials, and “What Sammy Said” delivers an enjoyable dose of brass pomp and swagger. Unfortunately, while enjoyable melodies, pretty sonorities and fine playing can be found throughout XXL, real fire and zest are rare. Sometimes Goodwin’s charts overwhelm his melodies with detail. “The Quiet Corner,” with its persistent burbling percussion, never actually sounds quiet, and “Hunting Wabbits” is too knotty and controlled to really take off in hot pursuit. Other tracks, like “The Jazz Police” and “Mozart 40th Symphony in Gm,” simply seem calculated more to sound pleasing than to stir emotions.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.