Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band

That's How We Roll

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Upon seeing the title That's How We Roll, people who don't know anything about the history of pianist/tenor saxophonist Gordon Goodwin and his Big Phat Band might assume that this is a hip-hop recording. "That's how we roll" is a popular expression in hip-hop circles (at least as of 2011), but like a lot of the bebop and hipster slang of the '40s and '50s, hip-hop slang often reaches people who aren't necessarily part of hip-hop's core audience, and that includes a jazz instrumentalist like Goodwin, who is jazz-oriented on this 67-minute CD but doesn't conduct himself like a jazz purist from start to finish. Goodwin has his traditional big-band influences (Count Basie, Buddy Rich), but it's obvious that he also has a taste for soul and funk; in fact, some of the horn arrangements on That's How We Roll successfully find the link between Basie's funkiness and the funkiness of '70s funk/soul bands such as Parliament/Funkadelic, Tower of Power and Earth, Wind & Fire. That's How We Roll has its share of tracks that could easily be described as big-band soul-jazz, including "Rippin' n Runnin'," "Howdiz Songo?," and the title tune. But "Race to the Bridge" and "Gaining on You" have boppish melodies, and Goodwin's hard-swinging arrangement of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" (which is the only song on this 2011 release he didn't compose) is quite Basie-minded. Meanwhile, the least jazz-friendly track is "Never Enough," which features Take 6 and is the only vocal offering on a predominantly instrumental CD; "Never Enough" is the only time the album ventures into outright funk (as opposed to jazz-funk or soul-jazz). That's How We Roll is not an album that was recorded with jazz purists in mind, and at the same time, there is way too much improvisation for the smooth jazz crowd. But this is an enjoyable outing if one is seriously into big-band jazz and also has a strong appreciation of soul and funk.

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