Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Checking in on Stanley Jordan

I’m not sure why, but Stanley Jordan popped into my head the other day, so I thought I’d snoop around and see what he’s doing these days.

A jazz/fusion guitarist, Jordan turned a lot of heads in the mid-80s, when he burst on the scene using the same two-handed tapping technique that Eddie Van Halen made famous - sure, others had done it before Ed, but it was being used occasionally for emphasis, whereas it was a part of Ed’s musical vocabulary….as it is with Jordan, who actually takes things to a whole other level.

It’s quite something to watch an artist when they are ‘one’ with their instrument: it’s less a guitar than it is an extension of their physical being – watch footage of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, or Van Halen in full flight and you’ll see what I mean. Stanley Jordan’s fascinating to watch, for all the same reasons.

For a time, Jordan was visible beyond the jazz community: first, because of his playing style, and second, because he often featured mainstream pop songs as part of the package.

Stanley Jordan - Magic Touch - Eleanor RigbyStanley Jordan - Magic Touch - Eleanor Rigby

Stanley Jordan – Eleanor Rigby (1985)

Stanley Jordan - The Best of Stanley Jordan - Stairway to HeavenStanley Jordan - The Best of Stanley Jordan - Stairway to Heaven

Stanley Jordan – Stairway To Heaven

I first crossed paths with Jordan and his 1985 release, “Magic Touch”; I saw him on a few different tv shows and then played him regularly on college radio. “Touch” was a mix of originals and covers, as Stanley performed tunes by The Beatles, Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk; the record topped the Billboard jazz charts for 49 weeks – he was just 27.

Jordan’s discography shows a steady list of releases through the 80s and 90s, up until 1994; then a live album in 98, something in 2003 and his latest record, “State Of Nature,” in 2008. Apparently, the gap in his library was as a result of a self-imposed exile Jordan claims he initiated after becoming frustrated with the ‘demands of the commercial music industry.’ Reports suggest the exile included a retreat to the mountains of the Southwestern US, as well as owning and running a book/music store in Arizona.

Jordan emerged from his hiatus with a renewed sense of purpose and vision, and applied himself to studying the field of music therapy: the science of music and its effects on healing the human condition (it’s a very complex subject and I’m oversimplifying here). Stanley has posted details on his thoughts about music therapy and his experiences – read about them here. In 1997, Jordan became a spokesperson for the American Music Therapy Association and, at last report, is attending Arizona State University working towards a master’s degree in music therapy.

Stanley Jordan continues to tour in 2010, in both solo and trio configurations.

Stanley Jordan - State of Nature - All BluesJordan - State of Nature - All Blues

Stanley Jordan – All Blues (2008)