I assembled what would become the Big Phat Band in mid 1999 with the intention of recording a record and nothing more. I wanted to document the music I was writing for the big band genre, but no way did I want to hassle with doing live gigs and all the logistical problems and phone calls and…no way. But around the time of the release we got a call to play a concert at my alma mater Cal State University Northridge. I remember some of the guys had doubts we could even get through a whole concert of the charts I had written. But we did, and not only did the audience love it, we had a blast. For a bunch of session musicians, playing for a live audience again was intoxicating. It reminded me of why I started playing music in the first place, because the life of a session musician can get to be fairly isolated. You rehearse the cue, record the cue and move on to the next, and you don’t hear it again until the film comes out months later. But here you had a live audience, reacting in real time! Not only reacting but interacting with the musicians! So, with that fun experience resonating in my mind, I started to dip my toe into the water and attempt to get some gigs for the band. Which was easier said than done. But little by little we built the organization and the band slowly started to congeal and get a sound of its own, a sound based on the talents of these fine musicians and whatever assets I could bring to my charts.
It started to become apparent to me that not just anybody could be in this band. Of course you needed to have top level musicianship, that went without saying. But I started to see that you also needed a certain personality to stick in the BPB. You needed guys that were willing to subdue their egos for the good of the band. You needed to be willing to dedicate yourself to the ensemble, to have pride and ownership in being a part of a tight-nit group. And you also needed to love the genre enough to lose money once in a while to play it! Hopefully not too often, but let’s be honest, marketing this kind of music is a bit of an uphill climb nowadays. While a few very fine players fell out of the band as we were getting started, our personnel has basically been pretty stable over the past decade. And I’ve found that even when a change is made, the band benefits and things get a little fresher again.
The guys listed below are, to a man, absolute virtuosos. They can sight read almost anything, which is a good thing since we rarely get to rehearse. They are masters of any style of music, from swing to pop to classical. And they are all complete knuckleheads, with quick minds and lively senses of humor. And finally, and this is most important to me – they have an optimistic view on life and are mindful of what a gift it is to play music. It is this last that permeates everything we play and we try never to take it for granted.
Meet the great musicians of the Big Phat Band.