Sax Man/Composer Gordon Goodwin Speaks at June ASMAC
by Jeannie Pool
Winner of the 2006 Grammy Award for his Instrumental Arrangement of nine-minutes long end [“Incredits”] credits from the Pixar film “The Incredibles,” with a 90 piece orchestra, as well as three-time Emmy Award winner and five-time Grammy nominee, Gordon Goodwin was warmly welcomed by ASMAC as the June luncheon speaker.
Working within the television and film industry, his orchestration (and conducting) talents can be heard on such films as “Glory Road,” “National Treasure,” “The Incredibles,” “Remember The Titans,” “Armageddon,” “Bad Boys II,” “The Majestic” (also composer), “Con Air,” “Gone in 60 Seconds,” “Enemy of the State,” “Star Trek Nemesis,” the classic cult film “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,” and the upcoming “Bah Hum Duck!” (as composer), a Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck riff on the classic, “A Christmas Carol” with Gordon Goodwin and his Big Phat Band. Goodwin told the ASMAC audience that in music for films his job is to “manage the director’s expectations and to find the solution.”
Gordon Goodwin has composed, arranged, and orchestrated for Ray Charles, Christina Aguilera, Johnny Mathis, Toni Braxton, John Williams, Natalie Cole, David Foster, Sarah Vaughn, Mel Torme, Brian McKnight and Quincy Jones. He has conducted symphony orchestras in Atlanta, Dallas, Utah, Seattle, Toronto, and London.
About his 18-piece big band jazz ensemble that plays the best of the big band tradition with a contemporary and original sound, Goodwin said, “I founded this band in 2000 to play music I believe in and the way I think it should sound.” The band’s debut recording, “Swingin’ For The Fences,” (Silverline Records) featured guests such as Arturo Sandoval, Eddie Daniels and made history as the first commercially available DVD audio title ever released and the first DVD audio title to receive two Grammy nominations.
Goodwin’s second album “XXL (Silverline Records) was released on DVD-Audio and compact disc in 2003, charting its first week. XXL garnered three Grammy nominations for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, Best Instrumental Composition (“Hunting Wabbits”) and Best Instrumental Arrangement with Vocals (“Comes Love” with Brian McKnight and Take 6), while winning the Surround Sound Award for Best Made for Surround Sound Title. The list of guest artists repeated the high quality of the first release and featured, among others, Johnny Mathis and Michael Brecker. The third album “The Phat Pack” (Immergent Records), with guest stars Dianne Reeves, David Sanborn, Eddie Daniels and Take 6 got one Grammy nomination, appearing for 31 weeks on the “Billboard” jazz charts.
While talking about growing up in Los Angeles, Gordon played the theme from “Batman” (by Neal Hefti) at the piano and said when he heard that in fourth grade, he made up his mind to become a professional musician. In fifth grade he heard Herb Alpert’s “Tijuana Taxi” and just had to have his own Tijuana Brass-style band; by seventh grade he had heard Count Basie playing “The Queen Bee” (composed by Sammy Nestico), and said to himself, “That’s me!” He credits his public school band director for his solid start as a musician, and remembered playing charts by Kim Richmond and Bob Florence, especially Florence’s recording of “Here and Now.”
Goodwin went to California State University Northridge to become a classical saxophone player, where he studied with Bill Caulkins. He admits being a ”jazz snob” while a college student, yet admitted that he played in rock bands at night and learned to appreciate rhythm and blues and rock and roll. Later he studied piano with Mark Richman at UCLA. He also studied writing for big band with Alf Clausen. Goodwin worked at Disneyland where he did a variety of musical styles and wrote arrangements for the Mouseketeers show. There he made his first big mistake, overwriting a chart by trying to please the performers and not the producer/director.
Then Goodwin wrote his first film score for John De Bello for “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!” (1978), which he admits may be the worse film and score ever. Then he had an opportunity to work with singer Johnny Mathis as a pianist and conductor, writing some arrangements for Matthis. Goodwin said, “Johnny taught me how to play my best every night and that singing and playing music is a great gift.”
Goodwin worked for five years with Rich Stone’s (1953-2001) team of composer including Steve Bernstein, Julie Bernstein, and Tim Kelly, on “Animaniacs,” “Pinky and The Brain,” and other cartoons with a live orchestra and no library music. He praised Rich Stone and appreciates the “break” he got there. He worked for Trevor Rabin, orchestrating his film scores and then started to get projects of his own to score. Goodwin said, “It is important to find what you love to do and then do that!”
Goodwin played a track from a SONY Classics recording, “Piano Starts Here” (1933) of Art Tatem from the 1940s. Then he played a track from a yet-to-be released album that included that same original track by Art Tatem to which Goodwin has added a big band chart back-up. Other current projects include working on a documentary about one of his mentors, composer/arranger Sammy Nestico.