A release that its creator Stanley Jordan cites as his most realized project to date finds him in challenging company: fellow strummers Charlie Hunter, Russell Malone, Bucky Pizzarelli and Mike Stern; saxmen (and label mate) Kenny Garrett and Ronnie Laws; N'awlins trumpeter Nicholas Payton and the renowned violinist Regina Carter. Another label mate, Christian McBride, guests on bass when not handled by Stanley's long-time trio bassist Charnett Moffett. Kenwood Dennard of his trio holds down the drum chair. Truly, a collection of Friends whose benefit push Stanley into a heightened musical reality.
There is no guitarist quite like Stanley Jordan, a star from the moment Blue Note Records launched its second life in 1985 with his own commercial debut, The Magic Touch. In response, a respected reviewer stated that the lanky 26-year-old fresh from several years spent refining his craft as a Manhattan street busker had extended the limits of the guitar, adding that few players in the history of music of music have brought an instrument to a more radical crossroad.
He reached the public for reasons pertaining both to his astonishing chops (his sui generis touch technique, a pianistic approach that enabled him to play melody, chords and basslines simultaneously), exemplary musicianship, and consistent devotion to melodic and creative imperatives. But at a certain point in the early 90s, Jordan retreated from his career, and although he soon returned to public performance he operated without a label until 2008, when he released State of Nature on the rising-star Detroit-based indie Mack Avenue.
Whether playing in public or in the studio, it has been Jordan s intention to make his own inventions the primary focus of the occasion. But on his forthcoming release,Friends [Mack Avenue] (said friends include guitar heros Mike Stern, Bucky Pizzarelli, Charlie Hunter, and Rusell Malone; saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Ronnie Laws; and violinist Regina Carter), Jordan is a consummate team player, prodding and igniting the flow on an 11-piece program that runs a 360-degree gamut of stylistic food groups.
At 52, Jordan has something consequential to SAY in each genre, as though he s thought deeply about each mode of expression over many years. Highlights include a four-to-the-floor, George Benson on steroids cover of Katy Perry s I Kissed A Girl (without overdubbing, Jordan plays the melody on piano while chording for himself on the guitar), an idiomatic investigation of Bela Bartok, a lively samba for Laws, and various ebullient, spectacularly executed interactions with each member of his guitar cohort.
By Ted Panken, Columnist
September 8, 2011 2:00 PM --themortonreport.com ted panken
In a successful career of over 25 years, guitarist Stanley Jordan has always displayed his versatility equally adept at blues, straight-ahead jazz and ever inventive with classical masterpieces. His virtuosity and improvisational prowess are a given, and on Friends, he also shows his skill on piano on two numbers. Primarily, he brings in old pals from various backgrounds and delivers terrific arrangements, ranging across the jazz spectrum, mixing in originals with swing, post bop, samba, blues, pop and a couple from Bartók and Chopin. Jordan makes roughly two appearances with each main guest, with all the pairings in different styles; all are great.
The opener, Jordan's Capital J, features impressive solos by Kenny Garrett on soprano sax and Nicholas Payton on trumpet. Jordan shines, comping behind the two. The horns appear again in another Jordan original,Bathed in Light.It starts with a mellow blend from Garrett and Payton, who then contribute solos. Jordan follows suit, gently accentuating the romantic, meditative mood.
A real treat comes when he pairs up with guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli on Neal Hefti's Count Basie classic, Li'l Darlin,hearkening back several decades with this honey-coated ballad. The two then go back even further to the swing era, coming up with Charlie Christian's Seven come Eleven,made famous by Benny Goodman as a showcase for the guitarist and also featuring peerless guitarist Russell Malone. Pizzarelli has a rousing solo, followed by a hip, three-way guitar duel at the song's end.
Things go in a different direction with violinist Regina Carter onboard, as Jordan explores Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra in a sensitive, shimmering, hauntingly beautiful arrangement. On Jordan's Samba Delight,Carter follows Ronnie Laws on soprano, interjecting a tropical touch with her violin.
For Jordan's Walkin' the Dog, guitarist Charlie Hunter appears and the two guitarists become like peas in a pod, picked from B.B. King's field. They mesh beautifully again in Jordan's reworking of Katy Perry's pop tune I Kissed A Girl, giving it a delightfully bluesy.
In a press release, Jordan says that this collection truly speaks to his belief that when you integrate styles, you combine them into something new while still remaining true to the original sources. His best argument is this recording.
Published: September 7, 2011 --allaboutjazz.com Larry Taylor