Jazz trumpeter Derrick Gardner, inspired by the finest hard-blowing funky bop bands of the 1960s, is working to extend that great tradition as a performer, composer, and arranger. Derrick quickly made his mark on the New York City jazz scene after arriving in the Big Apple in 1991. It has enabled him to travel the world playing top-flight jazz—including five years in the Count Basie Orchestra (1991 to 1996 plus occasional guest appearances that have continued into the present day), as well as work in Frank Foster’s Loud Minority Band, Harry Connick Jr.’s Big Band, The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and Swiss tenor player Roman Schwaller’s European sextet.
Derrick formed his sextet, The Jazz Prophets, in 1991 and 30+ years later it continues to be the primary vehicle of his distinctive, hard-driving music. Derrick’s recording by The Jazz Prophets, Echoes of Ethnicity, marked his second Owl Studios release in April 2009 and was named by Music Resource Group as the winner in the 9th annual Independent Music Awards, the influential awards program for independent bands and fans, for Best Jazz Album 2009. This prestigious award adds to the long list of accolades Echoes of Ethnicity has received in 2009. Like his two previous recordings, A Ride to the Other Side and Slim Goodie, it bubbles with the long-standing collective’s sheer love of the soulful, funky jazz sound for which Cannonball Adderley and Horace Silver built solid foundations with their 1950s and ‘60s ensembles—only they’re taking that sound into new, invigorating territory. The band’s three-man horn line, consisting of Derrick, tenor saxophonist Rob Dixon and Derrick’s brother, trombonist Vincent Gardner of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, has been together since the very beginning.
Born in Chicago, Derrick began playing trumpet at age 9 and rapidly developed as a player and soloist, regarded highly throughout high school and college at Virginia’s Hampton University as an imaginative and strong improviser. As jazz journalist Ken Franckling points out in the liner notes for A Ride to the Other Side, Derrick is “a Clifford Brown disciple with tinges of Freddy Hubbard and Woody Shaw thrown in for good measure, all in service of a sound and a band that are extending the funky soul-swing evolution.”
In addition to his own recordings, Derrick has performed on multiple recordings with the Count Basie Orchestra, including the Grammy-winning Count Basie Orchestra Live at Manchester Craftsman’s Guild, with the New York Voices in 1997, and four sessions with Harry Connick Jr., including 2007’s Hurricane Katrina-inspired Oh, My NOLA. His work has brought him to Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa, as well as many premier venues in the United States. Derrick has worked with a tremendous litany of artists that includes Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Frank Foster, Joe Williams, Benny Golson, Rufus Reid, Kenny Baron, Stefon Harris, James Moody, Oliver Lake, Roy Hargrove, and Clark Terry, to name a few.
In 2019-2020, Derrick became the recipient of several artist grants from Canada Council for the Arts, FACTOR, University of Manitoba, and Manitoba Film & Music for the production of a big band recording featuring Gardner’s arrangements on ten of his original compositions. This recording, Still I Rise by Derrick Gardner & The BIG dig! BAND, was released on the Impact Jazz label in July 2020 to critical acclaim.
Derrick’s fifth recording as leader will be released in 2023 on the Impact Jazz label. This new recording by Derrick Gardner & The Jazz Prophets, titled Pan Africa,” draws its inspiration from Derrick’s tour of Ghana and is a blending of West African musical culture and Jazz.