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Vincent Gardner: This Slide Rules

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I met Vincent Gardner in the 90s, and we played here and there on gigs and at jam sessions. I knew even then that he was unique—this bona fide world class jazz trombonist, a guy who had played with Count Basie and the Duke Ellington Band, was suddenly off touring with Grammy-winning hip hop artist, Lauryn Hill. He seemed to be everywhere all at once, and excelling in every direction.

One time I had a gig at the Zinc Bar so I picked my dream team. I was surprised when Vince said yes. He was clearly a superior musician and didn’t need to spend any time with me, but he was warm, thorough, humble, attentive—I thought, “Wow, I have to be like this guy! He’s a towering musical figure and a towering character!” He’s a genuinely positive person gifted with the ability to see the good in everyone, and to enhance it. (Much like his brother Derrick, whom we all know and love!)

When Vince Gardner plays, he’s informed by tradition. You can hear the roots of bebop alongside the swooping “tailgate” New Orleans style. Add to that a contemporary and unique lyricism that flows well with pop music, art music, big band, avant garde. He’s found a way to place his music anywhere and everywhere—and to sound like he’s at home.

The main thing you notice about Vince is his superior tone. On the high end, his trombone sounds like a trumpet or flugelhorn; on the low end, it’s incredibly full and rich. There’s wit and humour, and he’s always swinging hard. I can listen him for hours and not get enough!

Vince appears on a couple of dozen recordings now, including several with the Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra and several more with Derrick Gardner and the Jazz Prophets. He’s the leader on six of those recordings—check out Vin-Slidin’ and The Book of Bebop.

Better yet, see him in person. He performs October 24 and 25 as the featured artist on “Slide Rules,” the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra’s celebration of the trombone. You’ll hear repertoire from trombone greats like JJ Johnson, Slide Hampton, Curtis Fuller, and others, played by one of the finest trombonists anywhere. Also on the bill: Alie Clark, a stylish singer and recent graduate of our Jazz Studies program. It’s gonna be great!

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