Derrick Gardner & The Jazz Prophets – Pan Africa (ENG review)

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Derrick Gardner & The Jazz Prophets

About Derrick Gardner: For over thirty years, Derrick Gardner has been an unmatched force in the world of jazz, boasting an extensive list of collaborations with personalities such as Frank Foster, Dizzy Gillespie, Nancy Wilson, and Clark Terry. Gardner has been recognized as a prominent bandleader since his debut in 2005 with Slim Goodie.
The trumpeter and composer, resolutely modern, places Africa, particularly Ghana, at the heart of this project, primarily through rhythm. Inspired by a life-changing visit to Ghana, Gardner pays homage to his ancestors on this captivating release, deeply rooted in the spirit and traditions of the African diaspora. An unwavering emphasis on African rhythm is at the core of each piece in Pan Africa, showcasing the exceptional integration of the Jazz Prophets into the language of jazz and its source – traditional African music.
The compositions serve as more of landscapes or snapshots of a moment, as what is not explicitly stated about Gardner’s music is how Ghana has left an indelible impression on him. To truly understand, one must carefully listen to this album, returning to it again and again, as it is both exciting and mysterious, much like Africa can be at times. It’s not necessarily an ethnic album; rather, it’s an integration of Africanness, a tribute to Africa that has given so much to the USA and musicians like Derrick Gardner who, from a certain perspective, return to their roots with this work. While he may not be the first, this album is certainly one of the best I’ve heard that draws inspiration from Africa.
The nine tracks resulting from this album strive to honor various facets of the African diaspora. A rhythmic motif is at the core of each piece, acting as the pulse, stimulating and unifying each member of the Jazz Prophets, akin to the limbs of the same body. Gardner and his bandmates deliver a passionate and fervent performance here. Ancestral connections are palpable and real in the work, where honoring the ancestors is paramount.
The reviews from Bayou Blue Radio and Paris-Move particularly appreciated that the very American jazz side is not compromised by a desperate search for Africanness. Here, there is a perfect balance that does wonders for the heart and ears. Enough to place this album in the stack of “Essentials.”

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, January 12th 2024


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