The first line of Brian Derek’s website proclaims him to be “a bad mother****** on the Fender bass.” Now, I don’t know too many musicians bold enough to make such a declaration, but one thing’s for certain – a jazzer who makes such a claim had better have the chops to back it up. Fortunately for Derek, he has absolutely no problem defending this title; if anything, he probably exceeds it.
To find out what an extraordinary talent Derek possesses, you don’t even have to leave the comforts of your own home, assuming you’re wired to the internet. In fact, in the world of cyber-music (if that indeed is the proper term) this Fort Wayne bassist is literally an international sensation. (Yeah, I know it’s bizarre to see the words “Fort Wayne” and “international sensation” coupled in the same sentence.)
To begin enjoying the Brian Derek experience, simply visit his MP3.com website at www.mp3.com/brianderek. Believe me, you won’t be the first person in town to do so. You see, Derek’s latest claim to fame is that one of his latest compositions, “Origins (Factor 4),” was the No. 1 jazz tune in the world during the week of December 14! During that particular week, Derek’s website received roughly 2,500 hits per day (heck, that’s more than a typical guest on the Jerry Springer show), bringing the total number of hits to his website to 35,000. In addition, his tune, “La Frolida,” spent an entire week at No. 1 in the Latin jazz category.
Some people might scoff at the notion that Derek was No. 1 on MP3.com, believing that this site is just an outlet for all the garage bands of the world. Who, you ask, was No. 2 behind Brian that week? None other than Diana Krall, the current jazz diva who has sold millions of CDs and commands a fee of $50,000 per concert. Call me silly, but when I listen to their tunes side by side, I think Derek should be demanding more for his gigs (or dyeing his hair platinum blond and donning black satin evening gowns).
When you visit his website, you can order his five albums ($9.98 each) or you can listen to or download for free a total of 28 tracks. Thus far, Derek’s CDs have been purchased across the USA, as well as in the UK and Japan. While Derek concedes that he’s not getting rich by allowing people to download his music for free (although he does receive a whopping half-cent per download), he realizes that “when the time comes to tour the world, you can start to develop a fan base without having to leave your desktop!”
For those who prefer to do their shopping locally, four of Derek’s CDs can be purchased at the Wooden Nickel on Clinton St. Derek’s latest CD, The Sound of Emotion (from which the No. 1 MP3 hits were taken), is a collection of original compositions that “blend jazz harmonies with world and Latin rhythms and orchestral settings”. Three remaining albums, Jah Zambango, Clouds of Oort (on this particular CD, Derek performs a free improvisational number alongside his band, Cosmic Truth, a group of talented musicians based in Chicago) and Cosmic Truth, feature Derek as a multi-instrumentalist who performs on bass, percussion, and synthesizers.
Because the “Fort Wayne scene is a little behind the times” (now there’s a shocking revelation), Derek often “travels outside of Fort Wayne, mostly to Chicago, to make money playing and to work in a wider variety of jazz-related gigs.” Fortunately for jazz fans in the Summit City, Derek does perform at local establishments. He has become a regular member of Sugar & Spice, a jazz and blues combo comprised of Neet Bramlette (vocals), Eric Clancy (piano), Kent Klee (drums) and Dave Streeter (sax). In addition, Derek also works alongside pianist Dave Latchaw.
Catching Brian Derek at a live performance is a must. To say that this guy has chops is just scratching the surface. I recently heard him perform at the Firefly Coffee House and was blown away by his interpretation of Bird’s bop standard “Donna Lee,” a tune that gives even experienced sax players fits. Yet, here is Brian Derek tearin’ this tune up and doing it at a blistering tempo that would tangle the fingers of most jazzers. Derek plays with an amazing passion and drive, and, interestingly, this energy can be found in both his live performances and his recorded music.
There is no doubt that Derek’s music has been influenced by the fusion group Weather Report and the bassist of the group, Jaco Pastorius. One of my favorite Derek compositions is “Ascension (To John),” a burner based on Trane’s hit “Giant Steps” and dedicated to, among others, Jaco Pastorius. Derek’s respect for Jaco runs deep; so much so, that when Jaco died prematurely in 1987, Derek was invited to play at a benefit for the bassist in Fort Lauderdale. During the benefit concert, Derek performed with guitar legend Pat Metheny and drummer Peter Erskine.
And, although he is influenced by Weather Report and Jaco, the greatest compliment I can give Derek is that his music remains unique. His compositions are complex, yet accessible to anyone who appreciates quality music, particularly to music fans who avoid traditional jazz. According to Derek, musicians today “are supposed to be making things better and improving on what went down in the past and not wallowing in boring, stagnant, non-creative music that injures the soul.”
Brian Derek, it appears, is a man of his words.