Derrick Gardner: Crystal Stair


Crystal Stair


Derrick Gardner & the Jazz Prophets


Echoes of Ethnicity (OWL 00129)

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Derrick Gardner (trumpet),

Vincent Gardner (trombone), Brad Leali (alto sax), Rob Dixon (tenor sax), Jason Marshall (baritone sax), Rock Roe (piano), Garland Cannon, Brandon Meeks (basses), Donald Edwards (drums), Kevin Kaiser (percussion)


Composed by Rob Dixon


Recorded: Indianapolis, IN, date unknown; released April 2009


Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

Rob Dixon petitioned this tune to Derrick Gardner as a last-minute addition to the Echoes of Ethnicity sessions, and the leader relented and included it because the chord changes were easy enough to steer his large band through. It's true, there's nothing terribly complex about the tenorist's minor-key hard-bop piece. The song's allure comes instead from allowing all the players to loosen up and stretch out, starting with drums and percussion. Kevin Kaiser infused what Gardner calls an "altered Mozambique rhythm" that Donald Edwards supplements with the driving intensity of Art Blakey. Garland Cannon rounds out the foundation with some real funky, dancing basslines. All of which lets the rest of the band concentrate on jamming. Altoist Brad Leali goes first, then baritonist Jason Marshall, Gardner, and finally pianist Rock Roe. All put in solos that are punchy, crisp and bright. The trumpeter's is best, displaying a polished, full tone that retains an expressive quality throughout. "Crystal Stair" is a good example of why hard bop is so appealing when it's done right: never too hot, never too cold, and always soulful.

Reviewer: S. Victor Aaron


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