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Album Review

Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band: The Reset

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Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band: The Reset
Gordon Goodwin's dynamic Big Phat Band rumbles back onto the scene with The Reset, a somewhat less-than-big-phat album whose dual purpose, according to Goodwin, is to express hope and gratitude in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and to honor one of Goodwin's mentors, the late Sammy Nestico. Goodwin calls the album an EP, whose twenty-eight minute playing time places it in roughly the same ballpark as a vinyl LP from the good old days before digital recording and streaming.

The EP comprises five selections, and according to the jacket notes, "all songs [were] composed and arranged by Gordon Goodwin"—with the exception of two of the five, Nestico's "Cell Talk" (the last chart he wrote before his passing at age ninety-seven in January 2021) and David Foster, Tom Keane and Cynthia Weil's "Through the Fire," stridulantly sung by Vangie Gunn. Goodwin, did, however, arrange them all. His three compositions are the opening "Reset," funky "Six Feet Away" and a sunny and swinging salute to Nestico, "My Man Sam."

The throbbing, staccato "Reset" seems a perfect companion piece for a pandemic, pressing relentlessly forward behind stormy solos by tenor Brian Scanlon and guitarist Will Brahm and a wordless vocal, most likely by Gunn. Alto Eric Marienthal is showcased on "Six Feet Away," which includes some of Goodwin's typical harmonic twists and turns to underscore drummer Ray Brinker's forceful timekeeping. Gunn starts well on "Through the Fire" but is no match for the song's higher register, her attempts to impart emotion coming across as more unhinged than impassioned.

Goodwin and the band quickly regain their footing on "My Man Sam," a no-nonsense rocker whose splendid solos are by Marienthal, muted trumpeter Mike Rocha, tenor Jeff Driskill and the always enlivening Andy Martin on trombone. While there are no solos on "Cell Talk," there is a "bonus" in the form of a brief introduction by Nestico himself. The buoyant theme is pure Nestico, which is to say it swings and sways in the manner that his memorable charts for the Count Basie orchestra always did. It also pauses midstream as if to open a second "conversation," as charming as the first. An uneven EP but one whose drawbacks are more than redeemed by the last two numbers.

Track Listing

The Reset; Six Feet Away; Through The Fire (Feat. Vangie Gunn); My Man Sam (For Sammy Nestico); Cell Talk

Personnel

Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band: band/orchestra; Gordon Goodwin: composer/conductor; Brian Scanlon: trumpet; Will Brahm: guitar; Jeff Driskill: saxophone, tenor; Jay Mason: saxophone, baritone; Sal Lozano: saxophone; Eric Marienthal: saxophone, soprano; Wayne Bergeron: trumpet; Dan Fornero: trumpet; Mike Rocha: trumpet; Dan Savant: flugelhorn; Ray Brinker: drums; Kevin Axt: bass; Joey DeLeon: percussion; Andy Martin: trombone; Charlie Morillas: trombone; Francisco Torres: trombone; Craig Gosnell: trombone; Vangie Gunn: voice / vocals.

Album information

Title: The Reset | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Music of Content

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