Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy—December 29, 2011

Animated Jazz—And More

Leonard Maltin

Gordon Goodwin is a talented musician, composer, arranger—and animation buff. Years ago he got to score a pencil-test scene called “The Bedroom Argument” that was cut from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and unearthed for a laserdisc release of the film; you can see (and hear) it now on YouTube. He’d almost forgotten about this long-ago assignment when it turned up online, and says, “I remember how awestruck I was to be working with that iconic material! That pencil test animation has such personality, arguably more than after it’s been inked and painted.” He later composed and arranged music for such series as Animaniacs and Freakazoid!, as well as Looney Tunes Sing-Alongs.

Gordon’s day job is orchestrating and conducting scores for such major-studio movies as I Am Number Four, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and National Treasure…but his labor of love is a hard-swinging 16-piece group called Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, made up of top-tier Hollywood-based players. They don’t perform in person all that often, but when they do, they draw an unusually youthful audience because members of high-school and college jazz bands know Gordon’s name from his arrangements, which are very popular in the field of jazz education.

The latest feather in Goodwin’s cap is a pair of Grammy nominations: one for Best Instrumental Arrangement, for a fresh take on George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” and Best Instrumental Composition for “Hunting Wabbits 3 (Get Off My Lawn).” They’re both featured on the band’s latest CD, That’s How We Roll, but you can listen to them for free at www.bigphatband.com.

Because of Gordon’s keen interest in animation, he asked a musician friend, Allen Mezquida, who’s also an animator, to create a YouTube video to accompany the band’s number “Kind of Black and Blue.” Gordon recommends getting to know Mezquida’s sardonic Smigly character first in another video called “I Heart Jazz,” seen HERE.  Then you can listen to the Big Phat Band while you watch “Kind of Black and Blue” at www.youtube.com.

Finally, Gordon decided to engage his musicians in a wacky, experimental short set to “Hunting Wabbits 3 (Get Off My Lawn).” It’s pretty wild, as you’ll see here on You Tube.

I’ve been a fan of the Big Phat Band for many years, and especially enjoy hearing them “live,” where upon request they will play Gordon Goodwin’s most notorious film composition, the theme from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! Believe me, the tune is much better than the movie!