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Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band

About this Artist

Gordon Goodwin aspired to lead a big band from a time before he can even remember. His position at the forefront of 18-piece Big Phat Band, one of the most innovative and versatile collectives of the past thirty years, speaks reams about his seemingly limitless talents as an instrumentalist, composer, arranger, conductor and bandleader.

“Every time we make a record or play a show, we’re trying to tap into that fundamental, universal rhythm of big band music that seems to transcend the generations,” says Goodwin. “We’ll get middle school and high school kids coming to our shows and buying our CDs, we’ll get their parents, and we’ll get their grandparents. What other kind of music has that range of demographic appeal?”

By the time Gordon reached grade school, he was studying piano and saxophone, and composed his first big band chart at age 14. He soon started soaking up the lessons of artists like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Buddy Rich and Thad Jones.

After high school he studied music at Cal State Northridge, spending his days studying orchestration and counterpoint, and his nights playing piano and sax in a rock band at a local club. After college he entered the professional world through a job playing and arranging music for the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. This gig led to opportunities to compose and arrange for TV and film projects produced by Disney, Warner Brothers and others.

“I was pretty diversified throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s,” he says. “I’d do a TV show here, maybe some musical theater there, then I’d go play a bar mitzvah, then I’d go on the road and conduct for Johnny Mathis.”

Mathis, who once called Goodwin “a man of exquisite musical tastes,” was just the tip of the iceberg. Over the past couple decades, Goodwin has composed, arranged and/or conducted for a host of artists, including Ray Charles, Christina Aguilera, Natalie Cole, Sarah Vaughan, Mel Torme and Quincy Jones. On the big screen, his scoring and orchestration can be heard on dozens of films, including The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Get Smart, National Treasure, The Incredibles, Remember the Titans, Armageddon and Gone in 60 Seconds.

The gigs were steady, the work was interesting, the pay was good and the multiple Emmy awards during the period were a testament to the quality of Goodwin’s skills as a composer and arranger. But something was missing, he recalls.

“At some point I started to realize that perhaps I had a little more road behind me than I have ahead of me, and maybe I should plant my flag, stake my claim, and get back to the music that got me started.”

And that was when he started to get serious about putting together the group that would become the Big Phat Band.

Having amassed 21 Grammy nominations, four statues and three Emmy wins, Gordon Goodwin is the most decorated big band leader in the 21st century. Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band is an internationally known ensemble with a reputation as one of the most exciting large ensembles in jazz.

The BPB has released nine critically acclaimed records, including Life in the Bubble, which garnered four Grammy Nominations, and won the Grammy for “Best Large Ensemble Album.” Their recent EP The Reset was released in late 2021.

The Big Phat Band’s music is played all over the world, and along with Gordon’s method books and CDs, have been a robust source of inspiration and learning for thousands of young musicians.

Goodwin is the host of a popular radio program called Phat Tracks with Gordon Goodwin, currently in its 6th year, airing weekends on KSDS 88.3.