‘Big Phat’ jazz

On Wednesday night, the Stambuagh Auditorium audience got the chance to see a very rare performance. The Big Phat Band, led by Grammy nominated composer Gordon Goodwin, made a stop in Youngstown.

Music from the Los Angeles-based band can be heard on TV, in movies and even cartoons. They have also been featured on the popular TV show “Dancing with the Stars.” The band has also released five different albums.

The Boardman High School Jazz Ensemble 1 was the opening act of the night. Tim Ruggieri, the band’s director, said that opening for Goodwin’s Big Phat Band was an opportunity they could not pass up.

“The Boardman High School Jazz Ensemble 1 has played and fallen in love with so much of Goodwin’s music that we were elated last year to have the Big Phat Band’s drummer Bernie Dresel as our guest artist at the BHS Jazz Fest,” Ruggieri said.

He said that they tried to get the band to perform at BHS, but conflicts with scheduling and financing the event prevented the performance from becoming a reality.

“We thought it was a missed opportunity to get the band in this area until Matt Pagac of Stambaugh Auditorium and Rising Sun Entertainment and Productions called and said he was going to get them at Stambaugh for the tour,” Ruggieri said.

Matt Pagac, general manager for Stambuahg, knew how much the students of the ensemble admired Goodwin and the Big Phat Band, so he asked them to be the opening act. 

The BHS Jazz Ensemble has also performed at B.B. King’s Blues Club, Swing 46, and Trump Tower in New York City, The Blue Wisp in Cincinnati, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Progressive Field and Fat Fish Blue in Cleveland.

In two weeks, they will be traveling to New York City to accept an invitation to perform at Swing 46 for the second time as well as Trump Tower for the third time. 

The Boardman jazz ensemble does have YSU connections. Dana School of music professor Kent Engelhardt is from Boardman.

Ruggieri himself also was a member of the YSU jazz ensemble.

Ruggieri said, of the current 18-member lineup of YSU Jazz Ensemble 1, four are Boardman Jazz alumni. At least three from Boardman are currently playing in YSU Jazz 2.