A Ride to the Other Side…
Formed in 1991 when Derrick Gariner arrived in New York, the hard bop Jazz Prophets has hung together since then. This group is heard on the exciting new release “A Ride to the Other Side… “ (Owl Studios).
The core of the band is leader Derrick’s trumpet, his brother Vincent on trombone and Rob Dixon’s tenor saxophone, rounded out by the rhythm of pianist Anthony Wonsley, bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Donald Edwards. Percussionist Kevin Kaiser spices up several tracks with his Latin rhythmic accents. Musically, the Jazz Prophets are inspired by the funky hard bop of the likes of Cannonball Adderly, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and Louis Hayes-Woody Shaw. If Derrick Gardner is the leader,, this band sounds like there is quite a cooperative flavor as both brother Vincent and saxophonist Dixon contributing some of the originals. The only performance that is not an original is “Be One,” from bassist Bill Lee (Spike’s dad).
Whatever the source, this album cooks from the opening “Funky Straight;” through the hot Afro-Cuban scorcher “Lazara;” the dreamy “Just a Touch,” with its stop-time effect; and Dixon’s spirited “Of Infinity,” that closes this disc. “Mac Daddy Grip” is a Blakey inspired number with a loping beat with brother Vincent opening with a strong trombone solo followed by a prancing tenor solo from Dixon before the leader takes the spotlight recalling the likes of Woody Shaw and Lee Morgan with his brash and bright tone. Bill Lee’s “Be One” gives Derrick a chance to showcase his marvelous ballad playing on a number some may be familiar with from the sound track of “School Daze.” Few, if any, hard bop enthusiasts will be disappointed by the spirited and thoughtful playing here by an excellent ensemble that bring some fresh voices to this jazz tradition.
Echoes of Ethnicity
Trumpeter Derrick Gardner returns with an intriguing new album with an intriguing new recording, Echoes of Ethnicity (Owl Studios). The credit to the album is to Derrick Gardner & The Jazz Prophets + 2, reflecting the session expanding the sextet of the Jazz Prophets to that of an octet (being a nonet on tracks with percussion), in lines of a big little band such as could be heard on some recordings by the likes of a Jimmy Heath, Charles Mingus, Bennie Golson or Randy Weston.
Joining him are Jazz Prophets pianist Rick Row, trombonist Vincent Gardner, tenor saxophonist Rob Dixon, Bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Donald Edwards. The additions are Brad Leali on alto sax and Jason Marshall on baritone sax with Kevin Kaiser on percussion.
“ 4Newk” is inspired by Sonny Rollins and a hot number in the vein of a Lee Morgan and with a blistering solo from the leader and Jason Marshall also outstanding. Kaiser’s congas are added on brother Vincent's “Afros and Cubans” with a 6/8 rhythm with pianist Rick Roe displaying a fine relaxed attack on a number with interesting contrasting horn parts and the band skillfully negotiating several tempo shifts.
The tenor of Dixon and alto of Leali get showcased on Dixon’s “We Jazz June” is taken at a brisk tempo and its melody had a hint of “Giant Steps,” but is much more than a reworking of that classic. Leali opens the solos with a solo that displays imagination and a marvelous tone before Derrick comes in with a very round sounding solo. “Natural Woman” is an imaginative rendition of the Aretha Franklin soul classic set up with a slow 4/4 marching band tempo giving it a dirge-type flavor with Derrick’s arrangement of horns behind his solo and Leali’s short alto break is quite nice. Kaiser adds a Latin flavor to Freddie Hubbard’s The Melting Pot,” on what is a funky bluesy performance with brother Vincent shining on his solo.
“Autumn in New York,” is reworked as a “tone poem,” and a concerto centered Derrick’s Gardner’s wonderful ballad playing with Cannon taking a short solo. Rob Dixon’s “The Crystal Stair,” adds a bit of African flavor in Kaiser’s percussion with Leali, Marshall and Derrick taking the solos. Derrick’s “The Miss’ippi Man,” which closes this album, is a Mingus inspired number with the opening baritone honking by Marshall evoking Hamiett Bluett’s playing with the World Saxophone Quartet with his funky riff that sets the composition’s tone, with Dixon taking charge on his solo and drummer Edwards taking a short, crisp solo before Marshall takes them to the rocking conclusion as the musicians chat in a spirited manner as this ends.
Derrick Gardner has put together another strong hard bop disc which harkens back to some of the strong recordings the late Woody Shaw produced a couple decades back.
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