Gordon Goodwin and the Little Phat Band take the Holmes Amphitheatre stage Sunday afternoon, Aug. 28. While this will be the Little Phat Band’s debut in Idyllwild, it is not Goodwin’s first trip here.
Born and raised in Southern California, he spent several summers attending the Idyllwild Arts program. Then it was known as the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts (ISOMATA). Not only did he enjoy his vacations here, but the musical training was superb.
Consequently, Goodwin returned just last summer to drop off his son who attended the summer jazz program, and listened to some music.
“I’ve never been to the Jazz in the Pines,” he admitted. After listening to a description of the local jazz festival and the town, Goodwin compared it to a recent performance in Cody, Wyo. “The best gigs we do are in those towns. People are so appreciative of the event and the music,” he said.
Goodwin has been enthralled, engrossed and engaged with jazz and band music since seventh grade. Although he had been writing short (16 bar) pieces since first grade, in middle school Goodwin arranged a piece for the school’s band. The director liked it, had the band play it and encouraged him to continue.
With the words, “We’ll play it,” his director had Goodwin addicted to composing and arranging. The sounds of Count Basie and Earth Wind and Fire were among his true attractions. After college in the 1970s, he could compose but had no idea about how to make a career in music. But, he learned.
Goodwin won the 2006 Grammy Award for his instrumental arrangement of “Incredits” from the Pixar film “The Incredibles.” In addition, he has 11 other Grammy nominations and three Emmy Awards.
Through trial and error, he learned how to direct, manage and organize a big band — The Big Phat Band, which has 18 members. He also learned how expensive it is to move a big band around the continent.
Goodwin admits he makes more money composing and arranging for films and television, but live band music is his love. “Jazz moves the guys. It’s why they stay,” he opined. So he learned economics and put together the Little Phat Band, too.
The Little Phat Band plays its own music and arrangements. “I wanted the smaller band to be different,” Goodwin stressed. “The big band takes a lot of structure. This band allows more freedom and individual expression.”
Goodwin has taken his band all around the world and now he comes to Idyllwild. He’s looking forward to this gig because he understands how warmly the attendees will embrace them.
Nevertheless, he worries that people will choose the smaller band because of its size and the economics. “I’m responsible to keep big band music alive,” he said.