By Herb Boyd | Published November 2020
Tribute might be the operative word on Still I Rise, the album’s title a salute to author Maya Angelou, while several of the tracks conjure the sounds of Count Basie’s band.
On “Soulful Brother Gelispie,” drummer Curtis Nowosad pays tribute to another time-keeper, educator Randy Gelispie. Then there’s an homage to trumpeter Derrick Gardner’s father with “Blues À La Burgess” where the Basie beat erupts with splendid profusion from the bandleader. Another unforgettable nod to Basie comes on “8 Ball, Side Pocket” with pianist Zen Zadravec reprising a recognizable intro from the big band. One final tribute is “Melody For Trayvon”—written for Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American slain by a Florida neighborhood watch coordinator in 2012. It’s a lament that captures the tragic incident, Gardner’s horn burnishing its mood. The Basie influence here is unavoidable—though it by no means detracts from the essential sound and swing of the 18-piece Big dig! Band. And given the group’s collective ascendance and promising skills, its next album could be called We Have Risen.
Still I Rise: Push Come Da Shove; Still I Rise; Soulful Brother Gelispie; Melody For Trayvon; Blues À La Burgess; 8 Ball, Side Pocket; Heavens To Murgatroyd! (71:09)
Personnel: Derrick Gardner, Bijon Watson, Jeff Johnson, Curtis Taylor, Andrew Littleford, trumpet; Mark Gross, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Greg Gatien, alto saxophone; Rob Dixon, Tristan Martinuson, tenor saxophone; Ken Gold, baritone saxophone; Vincent Gardner, Joel Green, Anthony Bryson, Bill Green, trombone; Zen Zadravec, piano; Luke Sellick, bass; Kasey Kurtz, guitar; Curtis Nowosad, drums.