South African born and raised trumpeter Darren English, is the two-time recipient of the Fine Music Radio (FMR) Award, he is the 2012 SAMRO Overseas Award Winner, and received the JAZZIZ Magazine Critics' Pick for BEST-OF-THE-YEAR 2016 & THE HUFFINGTON POST BEST-of-2016. His album Imagine Nation was on the official ballot for the 2017 Grammys® as well as being nominated for BEST-JAZZ-ALBUM in the SAMAs (South African Music Awards) 2017.
He has performed with UK Reggae artist Finley Quaye, UK Pop artist Craig David and US pianist Joe McBride. His most notable performances have been with Grammy® Nominated trumpeter Russell Gunn, being the soloist in his Krunk Jazz Orkestra featured at the Atlanta Jazz Fest (2014), with vocalist Carmen Bradford (Count Basie) as well as performing and recording with Curtis Harding Soul Power, with Grammy® Award saxophonist Kebbi Williams (Chris ‘daddy’ Dave, Tedeschi Trucks), Greg Tardy, Joe Gransden, the Marcus Lewis Big Band, Duffy Jackson, Dwayne Pate, Gordon Vernick, Dave Matthews (Carlos Santana) the Kevin Bales Quartet, Lil' John Roberts, Marcello Pellitteri, and Louis Herivauex, to name a few.
Recently he has been featured in the US at the Atlanta Jazz Fest with his own quintet, as well as being the featured young artist at the 2015 Sitka Jazz Festival in Alaska and in Livorno (Italy) with vocalist Michela Lombardi, being a featured soloist on Russell Gunn’s new record The Sirius Mystery (2016), featured on the new album of LA based group MAGIC-GIANT, performing in Memphis with the Keith Brown Quartet, and featured on the new Dave Potter album alongside Wynton Marsalis' pianist, Marcus 'Jay Master' Roberts.
He has recently released his debut album Imagine Nation under Atlanta’s top jazz label, Hot Shoe Records®, which features trumpeter Russell Gunn, Joe Gransden, vocalist Carmen Bradford (Count Basie Orchestra), saxophonist Greg Tardy, pianist Kenny Banks Jr, drummer Chris Burroughs, bassist Billy Thornton and the recorded voice of Freedom Fighter Nelson Mandela - which has been receiving rave reviews in the US, EU, UK, and South Africa. Darren is exclusively endorsed by B.A.C. Custom Artist Series Trumpets, Carducci® Menswear, & Harley-Davidson® Cape Town.
“it is music and dance that make me at peace with the world.” - nelson mandela
Feat. Carmen Bradford
feat. Greg Tardy & Nelson Mandela (recorded voice)
feat. Greg Tardy
feat. Carmen Bradford
feat. Greg Tardy
feat, Russell Gunn & Joe Gransden
imagine nation album notes
IMAGINE NATION is the debut CD by Darren English, a young trumpet player, composer and arranger who is already building an international reputation. Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, English has performed extensively in his native country and around Europe. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA, where he went to school and where he now performs regularly, attracting the attention of the top jazz talent in the region, some of whom join English on this project.
Backed by a stellar rhythm section that includes Kenny Banks, Jr. on piano, Billy Thornton on bass, and Chris Burroughs on drums, English is also joined by several outstanding guests artists, including Grammy-award winning singer Carmen Bradford, tenor sax player Greg Tardy, and Russell Gunn and Joe Gransden on trumpet.
IMAGINE NATION comprises ten tunes. English composed a suite of three tunes that pay homage to Nelson Mandela and the struggle to end apartheid. He also composed “Bullet in the Gunn” that pays tribute to Grammy-nominated trumpeter Gunn. English is a member of Gunn’s Krunk Jazz Orkestra and plays on his latest album to be released “The Sirius Mystery.” The other tunes on the CD are well known standards that English truly makes his own. Take for example his rendition of “Body and Soul.” He creates a completely different vibe by playing the opening chorus without a mouthpiece. The breathy sound he engenders is complemented by Thornton’s arco bass playing, setting up an atmospheric mood that carries through the rest of the song. Although it is one of most widely performed songs in the jazz oeuvre, English’s heartfelt rendition stands with the best.
English is also a student of bebop and includes two standards of the genre: Ray Noble’s “Cherokee,” on which English trades solos with Gunn and Grandsen, and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Bebop.” Both tunes showcase English’s incredible trumpet chops and his ability to play shoulder to shoulder with musicians who have many more years of performing experience under their belt. Bradford lends her inimitable voice to the swinging “What A Little Moonlight Can Do (To You)” and the lovely “Skylark” on which English demonstrates his wide-ranging ability to create different moods with his sensitive and subtle accompaniment to Bradford’s silken voice. According to English, “Carmen is not only one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the privilege to know, she’s also an amazing singer. I’m incredibly lucky to be working with her. Carmen’s voice is like an instrument, so when I played behind her, I just needed to keep out of her way and give her the space to let her voice take center stage.” English wanted to create different textures on this CD and performs “I've Never Been in Love Before” with just piano and bass. The trio swings so hard you almost don’t notice there are no drums driving the music forward.
Although English was born in the same year Nelson Mandela was released from prison, the effect the freedom fighter had on South African society was profound and still reverberates today. Three of English’s compositions, “Imagine Nation,” “Pledge for Peace” and “The Birth” are part of a suite that pays tribute to Mandela. “Imagine Nation” represents Mandela’s struggle for the new nation he imagined. In the soulful and evocative “Pledge for Peace,” English creates a dramatic, almost cinematic effect by intertwining an actual radio interview with Mandela who talks about what it was like being a freedom fighter. English also demonstrates his ability to stretch the sonic possibilities of the trumpet by again playing without a mouthpiece. “The Birth” represents the birth of the new nation. It starts off simply with one note on the piano, and builds, adding the bass, then drums, and finally the trumpet and saxophone playing the melody.
IMAGINE NATION is an auspicious debut for a young talent who is sure to find his place in the jazz firmament. His first-rate playing, composing and arranging abilities show that jazz is still a dynamic and vital art form that will continue to grow and find new audiences for many years to come.
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