Rhapsody in Reality
Grammy-winning Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band plays Friday at PCC
By Bliss Bowen 04/12/2012
State budget cuts have predictably taken a toll on music departments like those at Pasadena City College, where teachers like Mary Durst strive to prepare students for the realities of the music industry. Toward that end, this week the usual Jazz Department curriculum will be augmented by master class sessions and a concert with Grammy-winning composer and bandleader Gordon Goodwin. Classes are for students only, but Friday night’s concert with Goodwin and his Big Phat Band at PCC’s Sexson Auditorium will be open to the public.
Concerts like this are presented every semester, but more often than not they’re classical rather than jazz. However, as Durst explains, jazz is becoming as much of an educational tool as classical music.
“Jazz is becoming the new classical,” she says. “Jazz is a great educational tool. The theory of jazz is very important to go into commercial music.”
PCC’s Jazz Department is currently dominated by jazz, but in 2013 it will launch a program in “commercial music” that will offer deeper studies in pop, rock and Broadway music in addition to jazz. For now, interaction with working artists like Goodwin helps familiarize students with real world scenarios in the music industry.
“Some of my students were asking today if they could ask him about the music business,” Durst comments, “and some of my instrumentalists want to talk to him about being in the band and arranging.”
Goodwin is well situated to answer those questions. A widely respected pianist, saxophonist and composer, he has scored and orchestrated numerous films and racked up credits working with household names like Christina Aguilera, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Quincy Jones, Johnny Mathis and Sarah Vaughan. This year he followed his 2006 Grammy for “Incredits” from the film “The Incredibles” with another Best Instrumental Arrangement Grammy, this time for his arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on his album “That’s How We Roll.”
More importantly for the students at PCC, Goodwin has survived as a working musician and bandleader. He’s kept his 18-member Big Phat Band going since 1999 — no small feat in a 21st-century world, where rock quartets and singer/songwriters are scrambling to find gigs.
“He’s definitely going to talk [to students] about musicianship,” says Durst, who is also a performing artist. “They’re going to get both sides of the spectrum. You’ve got to have the musicianship part of it to talk about the music business; there is no business if you don’t sound good.”
The Pamela L. Girard Guest Artist/Master Class Series presents Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band plus the PCC Lancer Jazz Big Band and Studio Jazz Ensemble in concert at Pasadena City College’s Sexson Auditorium, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd., 7:30 p.m. Friday; $15 general admission ($10 students and seniors). For more information, call (626) 585-7216. Gordongoodwin.com