STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
One of the most unique and gifted artists within the jazz and jazz-fusion community, virtuoso Stanley Jordan remains on a quest to expand his creativity and connect with his inner being.
“Duet’s” (2015), a collaboration with fellow guitarist and Philly native Kevin Eubanks, is Jordan’s latest release.
“I used to see Kevin in some of my favorite places to play,” recalls Jordan, from Chico, Calif. “He was one of my favorite musicians, because I could really relate to him. He was a guitarist who was approaching the guitar in a different way. He came up with his own technical way of approaching the instrument. He was also really open-minded as far as his musical style. One day he’s playing straight ahead, then the next thing you know, he’s rocking out. So I always felt like I could relate to him as a musician.”
“In 2010 we were on this festival together and I watched him do an interview,” adds Jordan. “I realized on a personal level I could relate to his thoughts and his opinions. We ended up talking and thought, ‘We should play together.’ So we did a tour and it was just like magic. One of the reasons I like to play solo so much is that I just go with the flow and do what I feel like and I don’t have to coordinate with other musicians. “
“It’s amazing with Kevin, because,” says Jordan, “it’s that same feeling as when I’m playing solo. I just sort of go wherever I want and he is just like right there. So we ended up doing most of those shows completely improvised from beginning to end. We got such a great response. It was from that tour that we decided that we should record.”
The result is a ten-song album featuring selections co-written by Jordan and Eubanks. Included are interpretations of “Summertime” (George Gershwin), “Someone Like You” (Adele), “Blue in Green” (Miles Davis), “Nature Boy” (Eden Ahbez), “A Child Is Born” (Thaddeus Jones) and “Lights” (Ellie Goulding).
Jordan, who recently lost his father, is excited to be nearing completion of his latest solo album, which is slated to be released later this year.
“I’m just finishing up my album,” says Jordan. “I’ve actually got the songs mastered. I’m just making some last minute changes. So the album is basically done.”
“The whole experience of losing my dad, in some ways, inspired the music,” adds Jordan. “I thought that my dad was with me. There are a couple of songs where I really feel he was with me when I was doing it. I had a very supportive environment. Both my parents said that I should do what makes me happy: ‘If you’re doing what makes you happy, then you are probably going to have the most success at that anyway.’”
“I have such a strong feeling about this new album — loss, redemption and coming back to peace and finding inner strength themes. This album best represents my music and my spirit. I just can’t wait for people to hear it. I’m really feeling good about that. I’m really going to love touring with this album.”
Upon graduating from Princeton University in 1981 with a B.A. in music, Jordan signed with Blue Note Records in 1985. He soon released his major debut, ”Magic Touch,” and the album reached and remained number one on Billboard’s Jazz chart for nearly a year.
Jordan fondly remembers his time in Philadelphia as a springboard to launching his music career.
“I lived in Philadelphia as a kid when I started making music,” recalls Jordan. “After I graduated from college, for a time, I was living in Philadelphia again when I was starting my career. And it was really great to go back because now I was old enough to participate in the scene and go to a lot of jam sessions around town. That period was really pivotal for me. This was like ’81, ’82.”
With a goal of expanding his creative freedom and expression, Jordan, a classically trained pianist, ultimately gravitated to the guitar. Through experimentation, Jordan mastered what has become his signature touch tapping technique that gives him the ability to simultaneously play chords and melody.
“If you’re a musician, you can create the experience right now that changes lives,” says Jordan. “You can make a difference in an immediate way. I realized that music had this power that nothing else that I knew of really had. So, that desire to do something positive in the world, if I chose music above everything else, I could do that more.”
Beyond gracing the stage of numerous high profile music festivals, Jordan has crossed over to the mainstream by performing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The David Letterman Show and the Grammy Awards. A Grammy nominated artist in his own right, Jordan was the recipient of the 2011 NAACP Image Award for his album “Friends.”
In recent years, Jordan has sat in with jam bands The Dave Matthews Band, Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead), Moe, Umphrey’s McGee and The String Cheese Incident as a guest on their respective concert tours.
In spite of his successes, Jordan has had his share of frustration in earning praise from within his own industry.
“I think sometimes there’s a mainstream attitude that wants to maybe be harder on me than other people, because I was a little bit more off the beaten path,” reflects Jordan. “So, I guess it’s understandable that I’ve had a little bit of a harder road being understood.”
“There’s certainly been a bit of a struggle doing my thing and getting appreciated for it,” added Jordan. “Over the last few years I’ve just really been letting go. Not necessarily letting go of fear; sometimes I do feel fear, but I don’t let it stop me. What has happened is just being more authentic as a person has really helped my music, and my music has really stepped up to another level.”
“I’ve been expanding on a lot of dimensions,” says Jordan. “What it is really about is finding my authenticity in every way and discovering that that is helping my music. I feel very liberated and that comes through my music.”
Jordan is looking forward to returning to the Sellersville Theater in early March, to perform for an audience that remains dedicated and loyal to his art.
“I’m just so pleased to be coming back here,” says Jordan. “I feel that when I play there anything is possible. I feel that the people are completely 100 percent with me and it’s in the part of the country where I have my oldest listeners in terms of how long they’ve been following my career. So there’s always a little bit of a reunion. It’s like coming home in a way.”
Stanley Jordan performs at the Sellersville Theater; 24 West Temple Ave., Sellersville, Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling 215-257-5808 or on-line at www.st94.com.
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