Ned Heckling The Band – Big Band Jazz

Ever since I got the opportunity to pen my thoughts and write a weekly spiel on jazz I’ve wanted to write something on my favourite form of jazz – Big Band. So, this week rather than going on my usual long-winded rants ending in the usual (brilliantly done) segue to an album, I’ve decided to not mess around (too much, anyway) and get straight into the music (essentially).

During high school I played, albeit very poorly, in some jazz combos. Being a rock music listener, I had no interest in playing in such bands and was either kicked out or left. Years passed, and in my later years at high school I was drafted into the school Big Band. Once again, my mind was filled only with thoughts of annoyance and bother.

“What? They practice two lunch times a week? And one morning every two weeks? Forget about it.”

Fortunately (for myself, at least) I showed up to the first rehearsal and never looked back. For me, there is no better form of jazz than Big Band. The mixture of brass, woodwind, and a funky rhythm section allow for the potential tones, grooves and melodies that always seem to bring a smile to my face.

In short, it was this form of jazz that took it from being a form of music I ignored and disdained to one that has become a regular staple of my listening library and something that I love.

Now, there is one Big Band album in particular which cemented it as my favourite genre of jazz. It isn’t the greatest Big Band album ever released; it won’t leave you speechless and asking for more, and it definitely isn’t considered a classic of modern jazz. Regardless of this, however, I love it. I really do.

The album I’m writing about here is Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band’s CD Swingin’ For The Fences. Released on January 23, 2001, Swingin’ For The Fences was Goodwin’s Big Phat Band’s debut release and was well-received; being nominated for the Grammy of “Best Instrumental Composition” for Sing, Sang, Sung and “Best Instrumental Arrangement” for Bach 2 Part Invention In D Minor.

While the songs on the album are fantastic, one particularly impressive characteristic of the album is the production. Through the use of cutting-edge sound technology every track has been produced to a degree where the band’s sound is almost impossible to trump. God they sound good.

Once you are able to move past the fact that you can precisely make out every subtle performance technique used by every musician on the album, you will no doubt fall in love with the songs. Goodwin starts the album with a bang, as Sing, Sang, Sung immediately captures your attention with Bernie Dresel’s pulsating ‘Krupa-style’ tom-tom playing. An ode to Benny Goodman’s ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’, Sing, Sang, Sung is an exciting display of the transformation of a jazz classic into an infectiously catchy modern jazz song. If you aren’t going to get this album, at the very least get your hands on a copy of this song – you will not regret it.

Goodwin moves through Count Bubba, a marvellous display of unity amongst the horns section, and Samba Del Gringo, a tune that will have you out of your seat and dancing within the first few seconds. Luis Conte on percussion and Dresel on the drums make this song disgustingly groovy.

Bach 2 Part Invention In D Minor is a rhythmically challenging transposition of J.S. Bach’s 2 Part Invention in D Minor to the fields of the Big Band. With fantastic melodies occurring almost constantly within the horns, the song also features fantastic solos from Eddie Daniels on clarinet, Tim Cox on piano and Dresel on the drums. A stand out track from a stand out band.

The album then moves through the sumptuous I Remember and the frantic bee bop title track Swingin’ For The Fences. Another fantastic track on the CD, Mueva Los Huesos soon follows. This Latin melting-pot of traditional influences features bone shaking rhythms (appropriate, since the title translates to ‘Shake Your Bones’) as well as a fantastic solo by the quintessential Latin trumpeter – Arturo Sandoval.

The album rounds out with the delicate Second Chances, complete with wind chimes and everything, the standard Big Band funk tune There’s The Rub which is sure to have you tapping your foot and humming the horn’s melody on your way to work, and finally the catchy A Few Good Men which is home to more rhythm section magic, a great guitar solo and more fine soloing from Dresel behind the kit.

Every time I play this album I can’t help but smile and tap my foot. No, it isn’t the most mind-blowing, genre-defining, world-changing jazz, nor Big Band album ever released. I’ll tell you what though: it’s one of my all-time favourite recordings of music of any genre, and its influence on me is motive enough for me to implore you to get your hands on this album; you won’t be disappointed.

Upcoming Jazz Events

Tuesday 22nd September, 9:30pm

Jason Bruer Band + Matt McMahon & Guy Strazz @ The Basement.

Gen. Admission tix $19 (plus booking fee) @ www.moshtix.com.au

Wednesday 23rd September, 7:30pm

SIMA Presents The 2009 Young Womens’ Jazz Improvisation Workshops Concert @ The Basement.

Gen. Admission tix $15 (plus booking fee)/Dinner & Show Tix $63.80 per person @ www.moshtix.com.au

Thursday 24th September, 9:00pm

Jen Cloher & the Endless Sea + Kid Sam @ The Basement.

Gen. Admission tix $17 (plus booking fee)/Dinner & Show Tix $65.80 per person @ www.moshtix.com.au

Friday 25th September, 10:00pm

James Morrison & Emma Pask @ The Basement.

Gen. Admission tix $25 (plus booking fee)/Dinner & Show Tix $73.80 per person @ www.moshtix.com.au

Friday 25th September, 8:30pm – 11:00pm

Wanderlust @ The Sound Lounge.

Tix $20/$15 @ thesoundlounge.com.au or at the door if not sold out.

Saturday 26th September, 8:30pm – 11:00pm

Ten Part Invention: New Works @ The Sound Lounge.

Tix $20/$15 @ thesoundlounge.com.au or at the door if not sold out.

Monday 28th September, 9:00pm

Vince Jones + Miguel @ The Basement.

Gen. Admission tix $30 (plus booking fee)/Dinner & Show Tix $76.80 per person @ www.moshtix.com.au

Tuesday 29th September, 9:30pm

Charlie Musselwhite & Band w/ Candye Kane & Band @ The Basement.

Early Bird Gen. Admission tix $38.50 (plus booking fee)/Gen. Admission tix $45.00 (plus booking fee)/Early Bird Dinner & Show Tix $87.30 per person/Dinner & Show Tix $93.80 per person @ www.moshtix.com.au

Every Friday Night @ 8:00pm

Marsala @ Waverly Bowling Club.

Free entrance! Free car parking for 100 cars!

Got a gig to advertise? Email details to [email protected]

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