Reviews of Original Jazz Arrangements

The opening track, Push come da shove, is written in a fanfare cannon-like style that quickly segues into an up-tempo driving ostinato that grabs your attention right off the bat.  This minor blues is filled with intricate writing, voices overlapping and intertwining, and building to a climax that releases Derrick into a high charged solo.  Drummer Curtis Nowosad takes a brief solo before him and Mark Gross engage in a rhythmical duet that builds into Gross playing with the entire rhythm section.  The band accompanies the veteran alto saxophonists before it abruptly stops to bring a short reprisal of the cannon-like writing before surging back to full speed and propelling the listener forward again, and finally ending calmly like the clear sky after a hurricane has passed through. And this is just the opening track!! The entire arrangement is filled with exquisite arranging done by Gardner, and it truly sets the tone for the coming tracks.

– Occhi Magazine

Like the Maya Angelou poem for which it’s named, “Still I Rise,” the second cut and title track, is righteously blustery and tireless and in your face. Both of the brothers Gardner take a turn out front, but it’s Curtis Nowosad’s drum solo from about the six-minute mark that builds the piece to its climax before the refreshing, if non-standard, ending.

– Matt Silver, WRTI 90.1

The Basie legacy makes itself felt most strongly in “8 Ball, Side Pocket,” a bluesy reimagining of Freddie Green’s “Corner Pocket” that builds from a Basie-like piano intro by Zen Zadravec through solos from tenor man Tristan Martinuson and Zadravec (again) into a full-bodied ensemble passage that shouts and testifies with vintage Kansas-City-to-Harlem brio. Channeling Green’s spirit, Kasey Kurtz lays down an unerringly sure, understated rhythm guitar pattern throughout.

– David Whiteis, Jazz Times

8 Ball, Side Pocket is definitely a tune that one could envision listening to while enjoying a game of pool and perhaps enjoying a drink and a stogie!  The playful melody conjures up feelings that I get listening to Sinatra and his band.  I really enjoy the robust tenor playing on this one as it sits right in the pocket and feels so good to listen to.  

– Occhi Magazine

The whole tune is a hodgepodge bouquet of chaos—it’s crazy!

– Charlene Diehl, dig! Magazine

You’ll think you’re watching Saturday morning cartoons with a fun fested “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”

– George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly

Also romping through this set is Gardner’s ebullient sense of fun, most evident on the electronically tweaked closer, “Heavens to Murgatroyd!,” which he aptly describes as “a hodgepodge bouquet of chaos.” At its heart, though, it’s a straight-ahead swinger, brawny and full-bodied, powered by muscular and dexterous solos from all concerned. Gardner is savvy enough to use the electronics as novelty gimmicks and let the “real” instruments take care of the music—which is, after all, what we came here to “dig!” in the first place.

– David Whiteis, Jazz Times

The hymn-like “Melody for Trayvon” is the set’s most meditative offering, with richly textured harmonic blends and probing solo work, especially Mark Gross’ alto solo, which recalls Johnny Hodges at his most mellifluous.

– David Whiteis, Jazz Times