To carry the baseball metaphor a step further, the hard–hitting Big Phat Band not only swings for the fences on skipper Gordon Goodwin’s dynamic new album, it slams almost every fastball or curve thrown its way well beyond the fence and out of the park. And even when the ensemble misses, it does so by no more than a whisker. From this vantage point the first eight tracks are towering home runs, while the last two are solidly struck triples that barely miss clearing the center–field wall (others may deem them round–trippers as well). The charts, all of which are Goodwin’s, shine, sizzle and (for the most part) satisfy, and his talent–laden ensemble rips into them like scavengers sundering a fresh carcass. As a result, everything swings, even J.S. Bach’s “Two–Part Invention in D Minor” — or perhaps we should say, especially Bach’s “Two–Part Invention,” as it is one of the more high–powered selections on offer (and the competition in that arena is indeed formidable). The Big Phat Band takes dead aim at Goodwin’s opening delivery, “Sing Sang Sung,” a stylish update of the Louis Prima classic that helped make Benny Goodman a household name back in ’38, and crushes it out of sight, thanks to razor–sharp ensemble work, superb drumming by Bernie Dresel and breathtaking solos by guest artists Eddie Daniels and Arturo Sandoval. That sets the tone for the rest of the date, as the band romps through eight more originals by Goodwin and the other by Johann Sebastian. To his credit, Goodwin waits until the last two tracks to get funky with “There’s the Rub” and “A Few Good Men.” They’re not bad, but as noted earlier, no more than triples on this reviewer’s scorecard. But hey, even Mark McGuire or Sammy Sosa would do almost anything short of sacrificing his first–born to hammer eight round–trippers in ten trips to the plate, and Goodwin has ample reason to be pleased with Swingin’ for the Fences. The other barn–burners are “Count Bubba,” “Samba del Gringo,” “Mueva Los Huesos” and, of course, “Swingin’ for the Fences," while moments of repose are the rule on "I Remember" and "Second Chances." Daniels solos again on "Two-Part Invention," Sandoval on "Mueva Los Hesos." Goodwin has invited no less than three talented alto soloists to sit in Dan Higgins ("Count Bubba," "I Remember"), Brandon Fields ("Samba del Gringo," "There's the Rub") and Eric Marienthal ("Swingin' for the Fences," "Mueva Los Hesos"). Guitarist Carl Verheyen picks, scrapes and wails on "A Few Good Men." Goodwin solos twice on tenor, once each on piano ("I Remember") and soprano ("Second Chances"), while trombonist Andy Martin and pianist Tom Ranier are heard on "Swingin' for the Fences," Martin again on "Samba del Gringo," and pianist Jim Cox (uncredited) on "Two-Part Invention." Goodwin says he loves big bands, an avowal that's easy to believe when listening to Swingin' for the Fences, which resonates with high spirits and abiding love for an oft-maligned but enormously creative and pleasurable art form. Goodwin and his Big Phat murderer's row have won the pennant and the Series with this album.
Contact:Silverline, 2231 S. Carmelina Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90064 (www.gordongoodwin.com).
Track Listing: Sing Sang Sung; Count Bubba; Samba del Gringo; Bach Two
Personnel: Dan Higgins, Sal Lozano, Gordon Goodwin, Bill Liston, Greg Huckins, reeds; Wayne Bergeron, Larry Hall, Dan Savant, Dennis Farias (1, 3