Derrick Michaels

Saxophonist - Composer - Educator

Baltimore-based tenor saxophonist whose approach is at once unapologetically lyrical and uncompromisingly dynamic. 

Photo credit: Efrain Ribiero Photography

Photo credit: Efrain Ribiero Photography


Baltimore-based tenor saxophonist Derrick Michaels is an inexorable force in the creative music community. His sonorous tone and expansive, lyrical improvisations have landed him on stage with some of the nation’s foremost improvising musicians, including Billy Hart, Michael Formanek, Dave Ballou, Susan Alcorn, and Ellery Eskelin. 

Michaels evokes the rich expressive history of the tenor saxophone in both his performance & instruction. His deeply personal approach has its roots in jazz and its branches stretching into the unknown, favoring expressive nuance over idiomatic reverence. Brandishing both an unabashed romanticism and a reckless abandon, Michaels aims to communicate the most vital energy of the human experience through his music.

As a concert presenter, Michaels endeavors to include listeners in the process of the music as it unfolds into the present moment.

"Derrick is an amazing young tenor sax player with a fresh sound, making waves on the jazz scene as we speak." - Mel Ellison

"Derrick Michaels' saxophone playing comes right out of his soul; the instrument sounds like a human voice. He delves deep into the harmonic mysteries of even the most familiar tunes." - Liz Fixsen, Baltimore Jazz Alliance

"Whether improvising freely or reinterpreting Thelonious Monk's 'Pannonica', Michaels was able to create memorable phrases and vary them in clever ways." - Geoffrey Himes

"This jazz is not for the faint of heart...(this) is destination music. The melodies and compositional forms sound like they are finding their way to their goal as they leak and explode into the ether." -Those Who Dig

"Michaels toes the line between musical and the experimental in a highly successful way." - Those Who Dig

"As he takes a solo, his tone is soft and light, reminiscent of Stan Getz, one of his heroes. It's an unexpected but perfect tone for a band playing a fair amount of free stuff...Michaels is playing a free song like it's West Coast Cool Jazz. But then, his tone becomes harsher, and his notes become more insistent, and suddenly he's in a Coltrane-esque flurry of notes, swaying back and forth on stage as the band feels it and comes back in..." - Baynard Woods

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