Going to a Christmas Concert by Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band is like celebrating the Holiday with your hip uncle; you know you’re going to get something unexpected, but you’re going to like it. Goodwin and company didn’t disappoint, as he delivered a swinging stocking stuffer that fit every wish on Santa’s list, mixing the traditional with modern and beyond.
From where else can you get a “Carol of the Bells” that mixes the traditional Ukrainian theme with a funky blues groove, teamed with a slithering soprano solo by Eric Marienthal? Mixed between songs such as a shuffling Warner Brother cartoonish “Santa Baby” (with Andrew Synowiec’s ukulele and Brian Scanlon’s beefy tenor), and the lithe “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” melding Kevin Ext’s bopping bass and the warm brass lead by trombonist Andy Martin, Goodwin acted as emcee as he brought the audience into participation with raffles, quizzes and contests.
The velvety sax section delivered a Basie groove on “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day,” while even the movie Home Alone was tapped for inspiration, as the John Williams piece “Somewheire In My Memory” was a gorgeous vehicle for Goodwin’s stint at the soprano sax while some salsa was added to the razzleberry dressing as Joey DeLeon’s percolating percussion and Wayne Bergeron’s matador’d trumpet produced a sizzling “Christmas Carol.”
Like all favorite relatives at festive occasions, Goodwin had a few aces up his sleeve, bringing up a fountain of youth-looking Johnny Mathis swinging like mistletoe from the door frame top on “The Holiday Season.” Pulling one last gift from under the tree, Goodwin then brought up Arturo Sandoval to team with the crooner and band to glow like a German Christmas Pyramid on a definitive “The Christmas Song.”
Closing with an elegiac “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and encoring with a snappy “Yo Tannenbaum,” Gordon spent the evening reminding everyone what attracted you to jazz in the first place, and also the Reason for the Season: Joy the the World.
Upcoming shows at Catalina’s include Mike Stern 12/14-17, Jane Monheit 12/21-23 and Arturo Sandoval 12/29-31