Friday, July 31, 2009

"I want to be a part of a new way of doing things." (Stanley Jordan)

Guitarrist Stanley Jordan was born July 31, 1959 in Palo Alto, California. One way to attack the daunting task of describing him is to think of him as a world class guitarist who marches in all aspects of his life to the beat of his own drummer. Never one to be locked into constraints when it comes to musical expression, genres or applications, the California-born prodigy is a progressive thinker with goals and ideals that stretch far beyond record deals, fortune or fame.

Though he maintains a busy international touring schedule and recently recorded several special independent CDs, his broader interests stretch into the realms of Music Therapy and Sonification.

Stanley Jordan came to prominence with the release of his 1985 debut album Magic Touch, a revolutionary project that dually placed him at the forefront of re-launching legendary Blue Note Records into a contemporary entity in jazz and beyond, as well as establishing the then-twenty-something Jordan as among the most distinctive and refreshing new voices of the electric guitar.Key to Jordan's fast-track acclaim was his mastery of a special "tapping" technique on the guitar's fret board instead of conventional strumming and picking. While a handful of other virtuoso players were using similar techniques, Stanley's fluid and melodic use of tapping captured the imagination of listeners via his inherent warmth and sensitivity. He happened upon the technique without any formal study and had been applying it to his already exemplary traditional playing ten years prior to the album. Though Jordan showcased the technique in a variety of musical styles from swing to rock, it was smooth jazz radio support for his singular versions of "The Lady in My Life" (first recorded by Michael Jackson) and the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" that sent Magic Touch to the top of Billboard's jazz chart for a stunning 51 weeks.

The album became a gold-seller (over 500,000 sold) - outstanding for any jazz or instrumental CD.Subsequent albums found Jordan caught in a frustrating web of wanting to usher his audience into deeper levels of his artistry while record companies craved more of the stuff that had whisked him to the chart top. Because he debuted on the Blue Note label, he was marketed as a jazz progressive when what he was trying to stress was music beyond stylistic boundaries.Those projects included a solo guitar project titled Standards Volume 1 (1986) where Stanley made the bold statement that songs by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell deserved recognition as standards as much as chestnuts like "Georgia On My Mind." He followed that with the band album Flying Home (1988) and an especially edgy album titled Cornucopia (1990), half of which was straight ahead jazz recorded live and the other half of which was multi-dimensional originals recorded in the studio.

He has been exploring deeper dimensions of his craft.After a self-imposed exile from the rat race in the `90s that included a retreat to the mountains of the southwest, Stanley Jordan has re-emerged with a new life's direction. A primary element of this new direction involves championing Music Therapy, which he is studying in a Masters program at Arizona State University.

"There's a belief that when you're a musician, you're supposed to want to be rich and famous," he muses. "I've never been like that. I do want to be paid well for what I do and want people to know about what I do - as big of an audience as I can - but that's a tangent. I see the commercial and artistic as two separate things. Sometimes they can work together. Sometimes they work against each other. I'd rather be musically satisfied and not famous than be famous and not satisfied with my music.""When I have something new I'm playing that I really like, then I'm most motivated to share it with the world."

Click to watch him playing "Eleanor Rigby"

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