Derrick Gardner & The Jazz Prophets, Michigan State University Jazz Faculty, Harry Connick, Jr. Big Band
Artist's BiographyJazz 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, and as a full-time college educator.
Derrick quickly made his mark on the New York City jazz scene after arriving in the Big Apple in 1991. and 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 2007), as well as work in Frank Foster’s Loud Minority Band, Harry Connick Jr.’s Big Band, The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and Swiss tenor player Roman Schwaller’s European sextet.
Derrick formed his own sextet, The Jazz Prophets, in 1991, and 17 years later it continues to be the primary vehicle of his distinctive, hard-driving music. Derrick’s latest recording by The Jazz Prophets, A Ride to the Other Side.., marked his Owl Studios label debut in March 2008. Like Slim Goodie, his highly regarded first recording as a leader on his own Impact Jazz imprint in 2005, 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 sax player Rob Dixon and Derrick’s brother, trombonist Vincent Gardner of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, has been together since the beginning.
Born June 3, 1965 in Chicago, Derrick began playing trumpet at age 9 and rapidly developed as a player and a 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 The Count Basie Orchestra Live at Manchester Craftman'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. In addition to recording and touring with the Harry Connick Jr. Big Band, an affiliation that continues as his schedule permits, Derrick was the featured trumpet soloist in the Broadway musical Thou Shalt Not, for which Harry Connick Jr. wrote the music and lyrics.
He has also been a sideman on recordings by arranging mentor and close friend Frank Foster, Carlos Garnett, Stefon Harris, Roman Schwaller and Liz Wright, among others. His work has brought him to Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Japan, South Africa and Thailand as well as many premier venues in the United State, working over the past 15 years with a tremendous litany of artists that includes late Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Frank Foster, Jon Faddis, Nancy Wilson, Tony Bennett, Joe Williams, Rufus Reid, Clark Terry, Kenny Baron, Stefon Harris and James Moody just to name a few.
In 2002, bassist Rodney Whitaker, who now runs the Jazz Studies program at the Michigan State University College of Music, recruited Derrick to join the MSU faculty full-time as an assistant professor of jazz trumpet. Derrick’s decision to move from New York to East Lansing, Mich., brought him full-circle. He lived there in the mid-1970s, when his parents, music educators, were working on their doctorates at Michigan State. His mother, Dr. Effie Gardner, is a classically trained pianist, organist and choral director, now retired from Hampton University, where she chaired the Department of Music. His father, Dr. Burgess Gardner, is a jazz trumpeter/composer/arranger who has played and recorded with many jazz greats through the years, including Nancy Wilson, Count Basie, Louis Bellson, Ray Charles, Woody Herman and two of Derrick’s primary influences – Horace Silver and Cannonball Adderley, as well as R&B great Etta James and zydeco star C.J. Chenier.