Primary Instrument: Trumpet
One critic described Derrick Earl Gardner as having a way of moving past the notes in a solo and getting into formal realms that make sense and heighten interest. Other critics cited Gardner's trumpet work as Soulful and Intelligent, a tremendous talent with a vivid and unusual imagination. These are qualities that Derrick has demonstrated as a freelance trumpet player, composer/arranger in New York City and with some of the biggest names in jazz today. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Gardner began playing trumpet at age 9. As he progressed through high school and college, Derrick was recognized by instructors as having strong improvisational skills and a marvelous imagination. Derrick has developed a distinctive style of playing which would soon lead him toward a professional career that has taken him all over the world including Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Japan and Thailand as well as many premier venues in the United States. He has worked with such jazz notables as the 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. Currently you can catch Derrick on the road with the big band of singer/actor Harry Connick, Jr. In 1991, at the age of 25, Derrick became a member of the world famous Count Basie Orchestra under the direction of legendary tenor saxophonist Frank Foster. For the next five years Gardner's soulful and rousing style of playing was a tremendous force in the Basie trumpet section and can be heard on the 1997 Grammy award winning recording THE COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA Live at Manchester Craftman's Guild, with the New York Voices. Derrick can also be heard on several other internationally distributed recordings such as the Frank Foster project Leo Rising, Moon Shadow by tenor saxophonist Carlos Garnet, Brooklyn by alto saxophonist Craig Bailey and The Grand Unification Theory by vibraphonist Stefon Harris. Other Basie recordings to Gardner's credit include Live at El Morocco, Basie's Bag and Live at Orchestra Hall with Joe Williams, all on Telarc Records. Derrick has recently joined the jazz faculty at Michigan State University as Assistant Professor of Jazz Trumpet. As part of the newly formed Professors of Jazz at MSU, Derrick can also be heard on their most recent recording The Third Floor. In addition to his career in jazz, Derrick's trumpet has been called upon to enhance a variety of musical endeavors that would include; recording with Talib Kweli & Hi Tek, Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz, performances with The Saturday Night Live Band on NBC, featured trumpet soloist in the Broadway musical Thou Shalt Not and the Apollo Theater musical revue Harlem Song.
As composer/arranger Gardner's music has been featured with The Count Basie Orchestra, The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and around the country with several universities and high schools. Since 1989, Derrick has written for and leads his own explosive sextet known as THE JAZZ PROPHETS. This impulsive and fiery ensemble features a host of great musicians, including Derrick's brother, trombonist Vincent Gardner of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orch. The Jazz Prophets have performed in many notable venues around the USA including The Jazz Standard, Pumpkin's, and The Savoy Lounge all in New York City, The Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis and internationally at The La Teste de Buch Jazz Festival in La Teste, France, La Villa Jazz Club and The Sunset Jazz Club both in Paris, France. Derrick Gardner & The Jazz Prophets' debut recording on Impact Jazz, Slim Goodie, was released in March, 2005.