BEAVERCREEK — Nearly 40 years ago, a much-younger Gordon Goodwin was in California trying to make it as a musician.
The 20-something pianist was waiting for his big break.
“They didn’t teach you a lot about marketing, building your brand and stuff like that,” the now-60-year-old Goodwin said via phone from his home in southern California.
His chance seemingly came one day when his phone rang and famed producer and composer Quincy Jones was on the other end. But Goodwin was splashing around in the swimming pool and when he called back was only able to reach Jones’ assistant.
He found out in the entertainment business that timing is everything.
“I remember thinking, just like it’s a game of inches,” Goodwin said.
He eventually hooked up with Jones, but by then the Kansas native had established himself in the jazz world.
Now a famed composer and bandleader himself, Goodwin — who has won several Emmy and Grammy awards — will show off those talents when he brings his 18-piece Big Phat Band to Beavercreek High School March 4-5 for the Weekend of Jazz.
The band will perform 8 p.m. each day and then will hang around to give some pointers to up-and-coming musicians during master class sessions March 5. The weekend also features exhibition performances by 24 high school and middle school jazz bands and 10 jazz combos from throughout the region.
“That’s a priority for us, to be able to work with young people,” Goodwin said. “That’s one of the things we try to do is make sure we’re able to listen to a high school band. This is a system that we call came out of it. I fell in love with jazz playing with a school band. It showed me my life direction.”
Goodwin’s road to jazz fame actually began earlier than that. He started composing in kindergarten when Goodwin’s piano teacher asked him to write a new song every week.
“Early on I got the idea that I could create my own music,” Goodwin said.
But then right before high school Goodwin heard a Count Basie record which was a life-changing moment.
“It was an epiphany,” Goodwin said. “It was the first big band thing that I heard that captured my heart.”
Goodwin’s heart really wasn’t in it at first. His early bookings were playing bar mitzvahs and weddings “and stuff.”
“I was really hating it,” Goodwin said. “I didn’t like it. I was not a pleasant guy. It was so frustrating to be doing those gigs where it didn’t seem to really matter.”
But Goodwin had another epiphany-like moment when he realized that “in order to do what you want to do, you have to stop doing what you don’t want to do.”
Goodwin admitted it was tough to do as he needed the money and had to figure out a way to fill the void he just created. But fast forward to 2000 and it’s safe to say that void was filled. That’s when he created the Big Phat Band, recruiting who he calls musicians who are in the “top 10” of those who play big band-type music.
That’s an accurate assessment as Goodwin’s cinematic scoring and orchestration craft can be heard on such films as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” “Escape to Witch Mountain,” “Get Smart,” “Glory Road,” and “National Treasure.” Goodwin’s soundtrack to Looney Tunes’ “Bah HumDuck!” — a wacky Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck riff on the classic “A Christmas Carol” — also features the Big Phat Band’s patented sound.
It’s a sound Goodwin hopes will keep jazz and big band-music alive despite an attempt by some in the mainstream to mute it.
“You will never see classical music or jazz telecast on the Grammys anymore,” Goodwin said. “(But) you can’t dismiss jazz as just museum music. Those people don’t go to Beavercreek and see the audiences going crazy over this type of music. People in Beavercreek appreciate it.”
It’s not just idle talk from Goodwin, either. He admitted most of the musicians are losing money to come to Beavercreek when they can stay in Los Angeles and get higher-paying gigs, such as eight of his band members who were in Sunday’s Academy Awards orchestra.
But it was a no-brainer for his “A-Team” musicians to agree to the trip.
“We love going to the Midwest,” Goodwin said. “There’s such a rich jazz tradition there. Jazz has endured.”
Just like Goodwin did, despite a missed hook-up.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.
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