Stanley Jordan – Friends – Mack Avenue Records

by | Nov 9, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews

Stanley Jordan – Friends – Mack Avenue Records MAC1062, 64:33 ****1/2:
(Stanley Jordan – guitar, piano; Regina Carter – violin; Kenwood Desmond – drums, keyboards; Kenny Garrett – soprano saxophone; Charlie Hunter – guitar; Ronnie Laws – soprano saxophone; Russell Malone – guitar; Christian McBride – bass; Charnett Moffett – bass; Kenwood Dennard – drums; Nicholas Payton – trumpet; Bucky Pizzarelli – guitar; Mike Stern – guitar)
Stanley Jordan made a huge impression, almost immediately. The innovative “two-handed tapping technique” allowed him to play melody and chords simultaneously. Educated at Princeton University, he began playing with the likes of Benny Carter and Dizzy Gillespie. Earning a reputation as a brilliant guitarist, he became prominent on the festival circuit (specifically Kool Jazz Festival and Montreux). His debut, Touch Sensitive received critical acclaim. The ability to cover well known popular songs (“Eleanor Rigby, “The Lady In My Life”) showcased intriguing arrangement skills.  Many believed that Jordan, who embraced a wide variety of jazz, would dominate the market. His ability to incorporate both classical and pop sensibilities into his compositions and interpretations was unsurpassed. He has not traded on commercial success, and releases music that is unconventional.
His latest project, titled Friends has been released on Mack Records. With an all-star lineup of jazz artists, eleven tracks (originals and covers) are played with various shadings and idiomatic expression. The opening cut, “Capitol J” has a bop swing that allows solos by Kenny Garrett (soprano saxophone) and especially New Orleans trumpeter, Nichols Payton. Jordan contributes a rollicking solo as well. This combination returns on a mellower number “Bathed In Light”. Jordan’s guitar work has a gentle sway, but still demonstrates a concise, sharp edge.
The various guest artists shine on the album. Fellow guitarist, Charlie Hunter combines with Jordan on a smoldering version of “Walkin’ The Dog”. The harmonic lead interplay is noteworthy. Veteran Bucky Pizzarelli transforms the Neal Hefti standard, “Lil’ Darlin”. Both players deliver a relaxed, graceful feel that brings to mind the lithe touch of Les Paul or Chet Atkins. Jordan is comfortable with his peers and elevates their performances with his respectful collaboration. Russell Malone unites with the duo in homage to Charlie Christian (Benny Goodman), on the classic swing opus, “Seven Come Eleven”. The results are magical. Mike Stern joins in a spirited take on the John Coltrane classic, “Giant Steps”. The adaptation to stringed chords is seamless.
With Stanley Jordan it is customary to expect peerless musicianship. Additionally, the aura of originality is also prevalent. An inventive rendition of Katy Perry’s pop anthem, “I Kissed A Girl” is buoyantly hard-edged. Jordan gets to play piano in addition to guitar. His classical roots reappear on “Romantic Intermezzo From Bartok’s Concerto For Orchestra”. Regina Carter displays her indelible grace on violin in duet with Jordan on piano (not surprisingly, he is proficient on this instrument). Carter also appears on Jordan’s rhythmic number, “Samba Delight”. Several violin runs lead into one by Ronnie Laws on soprano and some nimble guitar licks. Another classical track, “Reverie” benefits from a supple trio configuration as if jazz and classics were interchangeable. Jordan pays tribute to his former teacher on the title track, with an extensive improvisation.
Friends Is a rousing, complex album. Jordan integrates with the assorted players in a natural, spontaneous way.
TrackList: Capital J; Walkin’ The Dog’ Lil’ Darlin’; Giant Steps; I Kissed A Girl; Samba Delight; Seven Come Eleven; Bathed In Light; Romantic Intermezzo From Bartok’s Concerto For Orchestra; Reverie; One For Milton
–Robbie Gerson

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