Reviewed on this page:
Magic Touch - Standards Vol. One - Flying Home - Cornucopia - Stolen Moments - Bolero
- Dreams Of Peace - State Of Nature
Stanley Jordan is a jazz guitarist with a spectacular technique
involving tapping on the fretboard with both hands at once, capable
of playing multiple simultaneous lines and sounding more like a pianist
than a guitar player. Despite the popularity of the Stick and other
paraphernalia designed to facilitate two-handed tapping, Jordan
remains the foremost exponent of the technique as the basis for
personal musical expression, rather than just a special effect.
Jordan's career started off with a bang: his debut album attracted
a lot of attention, he appeared regularly on late-night TV,and he
was (with Wynton Marsalis) expected by the jazz establishment to
revive jazz from its mid-80s doldrums. He faded from the public
eye rather quickly, but has reemerged recently: You can get updated information on his whereabouts and touring schedule
on his web site.
Touch Sensitive (1982)
Supposedly a rare independent release, I've never seen it and don't know the track listing. (DBW)
Magic Touch (1985)
Calculated to take the world by storm, this set includes Jordan
tackling jazz standards (Thelonious Monk's
"Round Midnight," Miles Davis'
"Freddie Freeloader"), pop tunes (The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby") and
Jordan originals. About half the tracks are Jordan unaccompanied,
while the rest are mostly drums and bass. His interpretations are
consistently interesting: "Round Midnight" is played in 3/4, and
"Eleanor Rigby" is gritty and charged after its atmospheric
opening. His playing on Jimi
Hendrix's ballad "Angel" is lovely, the best cover of a Hendrix
tune I've ever heard (and I've heard many). His originals are
catchy but lack depth ("All The Children") - the most experimental
touch is the African rhythms on "Return Expedition." And "The Lady
In My Life" lacks verve; it's uninteresting pop/fusion. (DBW)
Standards Vol. One (1986)
It's just Jordan live with no overdubs, on a set of 60s and 70s
rock and pop tunes. He gives some beautiful interpretations,
lyrical and percussive at the same time: Simon
and Garfunkel's "The Sound Of Silence," Bobby Hebb's "Sunny,"
Stevie Wonder's "Send One Your
Love." His playing on "Georgia On My Mind" is excellent, probably
the best recorded example not only of his technique but of his
musical sense. He also acknowledges John
Coltrane on "My Favorite Things." Occasionally the album is a
bit too mellow, threatening to turn into background music ("Moon
River"), and some of the tunes aren't brilliant (The Fifth
Dimension's "One Less Bell To Answer"); but overall it's engaging
and pleasant. (DBW)
Flying Home (1988)
This foray into slick jazz/pop may have been intended to increase
Jordan's commercial appeal, but it didn't. Produced by Preston Glass, the record's
full of by-the-numbers keyboards and drum programming, and the
tunes are dull, except the groovy "Brooklyn At Midnight." Funk
legend Larry Graham is wasted on the couple
of tracks he graces, including a cover of Led
Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" that seems intended solely to
display Jordan's technique, more the work of an overtrained showoff
than a sensitive musician. (DBW)
Live In New York (rec. 1989, rel. 1998)
I might have been at this Manhattan Center show, I can't remember.
Anyway, the set list was his late 80s routine: "Impressions," "Flying Home," "The Lady In My Life." (DBW)
Jordan retreated to more acoustic jazz here, using New
Traditionalists Kenny Kirkland, Charnett Moffett and Jeff Watts as
sidemen. He plays some standards ("Willow Weep For Me," "Autumn
"Impressions"), plus a dull fusion version of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On." The only
Jordan originals are "Asteroids," which, true to its name, sounds
like a video game, and a blues, "Still Got The Blues," where his
guitar is MIDI'd to sound like an organ... the effect could have
worked, but comes across as gimmicky. The record is padded out with
an excruciating, 21-minute solo improvisation (title track) with which
Jordan bored his live audiences - myself included - during this period. (DBW)
Stolen Moments (1991)
Jordan seemed to be completely out of ideas by this point: a live
album consisting of tunes he'd already covered on previous records
("Lady In My Life," "Impressions"), plus "Over The Rainbow," which
had long been a staple of his live act, and Oliver Nelson's "Stolen
Moments." The most interesting cut is a long, free-form version of
Jordan's own "Return Expedition," but overall the album - though
professional and entertaining - is redundant. (DBW)
Leads off with a 22 minute, six-part, light jazz/faux World Music/synth pop/hiphop/heavy metal take on Ravel's "Bolero" that's every bit as boring, derivative, and soulless as it sounds - Jordan's reduced to a bit player in his production team's egomaniacal quest to rip off every genre on the planet. The rest is mostly 70s covers served up in a lame-ola New Agey jazz-pop style: Heatwave's disco tune "Always And Forever," the Stylistics' smarmy soul ballad "Betcha By Golly Wow," and an almost unrecognizeable, slightly reggae-ized version of Jimi's "Drifting" that admittedly smokes in places.
The best attempt is a funky, hiphop-influenced "Chameleon" (Herbie Hancock) that rips off P-Funk at the end. Although most of the other tracks feature a full lineup, Stanley's one original ("Plato's Blues") has him literally playing two guitars at once, unaccompanied (!!); it's enough to prove what a waste of talent the rest of the record is. I found this a huge disappointment after greatly enjoying Jordan's live performances in the 80s. (JA)
Recorded at Seattle's Jazz Alley in July 2000, with Jay Kishor on sitar and Vedang Londhe on tabla.
I will pick this up at some point, if only to compare it to Kalyan Pathak & Jayho Jazzmata's take on ragazz.
Relaxing Music In Difficult Situations I (2003)
Solo guitar improvisation.
Dreams Of Peace (Novecento featuring Stanley Jordan: 2004)
Novecento appears to be Jordan plus the Nicolosi family: Dora (vocals), Lino (rhythm guitar), Rossana (bass) and Pino (keyboards).
The disc falls into the common modern jazz trap of trying to cover too many bases: there's a Lite Jazz number to get on the radio ("Flying On The Sky"), there's a John Scofield-style shredfest ("Spring"),
there's some New Age puffery with strings and vocal ("Tell Me Something"), there's a funk number ("I Can Show You Something"),
and along the way the band never establishes an identity or mood. This wouldn't be such a problem if the tunes were stronger, but they're mostly simple, forgettable snatches of melody ("Destination Of My Heart").
Jordan co-wrote everything, but doesn't take a commanding role, mostly content to noodle his way through the grooves ("Sky Flower"),
though he does construct a fine solo on the title track, and add a nice slippery outro to "Too Close To The Sun."
Randy Brecker ("Destination Of My Heart") tops the guest list,
which also boasts Gregg Brown (vocals), Leonardo Govin (trombone), Trio Solista (strings) and a host of percussionists.
Released on Steve Vai's Favored Nations label, which is rounding up an admirable assortment of guitar virtuosi.
State Of Nature (2008)
A concerted effort to reestablish Jordan as a viable commercial artist sees him covering lots of bases:
There are the jazz standards ("All Blues" and Horace Silver's "Song For My Father," both with Jordan playing pedestrian piano simultaneously with his usual elegant guitar).
There's a desperate attempt to get on the radio (the blithe take on Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out").
There are spins through Mozart's Piano Concerto #21 and Jobim's "Insensatez," where Jordan builds up an intense solo. The bulk of the running time, though, is turned over to original material, either uptempo but scattered jazz ("A Place In Space") or fragmented soundscapes augmented with environmental recording ("Forest Garden"; the guitarless, New Age-y "Healing Waves").
Throughout, Jordan spends more time showcasing these various techniques than in crafting music of lasting value, though, and all the trickery ultimately shows its hollowness.
Most tracks feature Moffett on bass and either David Haynes or Kenwood Dennard on drums; "Ocean Breeze" has a larger group including co-writer Kishor and Londh.
More or less a continuation of State Of Nature's approach, with guests (Charlie Hunter, Mike Stern, Regina Carter,
Moffett and Dennard), standards ("Giant Steps") and pop covers ("I Kissed A Girl" - not sure which one).
Ready for a return expedition?