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Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band: Life In the Bubble

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Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band returns with its winning combination of impeccable musicianship and pop savvy. Goodwin’s long history of working in the film industry serves him well; he knows how to deliver charts that burst with melodic ingenuity and snazzy rhythms.

Goodwin’s Hollywood tenure rears its head most explicitly on his frisky take on Irving Szathmary’s “Get Smart.” (Goodwin worked on the film of same name.) This new chart is performed with expressive brio, especially from Eric Marienthal, who delivers a spiky alto saxophone solo. The big band also delivers a juiced-up rendition of the jazz staple “On Green Dolphin Street” with a discreet nod to Oscar Peterson, whom Goodwin channels admirably on a fleet piano improvisation.

But some of the richer treats come in the form of originals. The fanciful “Garaje Gato” is a sunny Latin gem waiting to become a classic, with the too-brief rhythmic showdown between drummer Bernie Dresel and percussionist Joey DeLeon being the highlight. The noirish “Passage,” again featuring Marienthal’s acerbic alto, demonstrates how Goodwin’s ingenuity extends far beyond the uptempo, while the intriguing title track finds the bandleader toying with electronic textures amid a fetching <>Dragnet-like melody.

Originally Published