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 Tuesday, 06 October 2015
Stanley Jordan, “Friends” (2011, Mack Avenue) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Friday, 02 December 2011
ImageReleased in September, inventive guitarist Stanley Jordan, like label partner Christian McBride, brings on a who’s who list of artists to make some merry music, but rather than going at it in duet format, generally plays with his working trio of bassist Charnett Moffett and drummer Kenwood Dennard. And he chooses a number of fellow string specialists, including McBride, violinist Regina Carter, and guitarists Charlie Hunter, Russell Malone, Bucky Pizzarelli and Mike Stern.  He also sets up collaborations with saxmen Kenny Garrett and Ronnie Laws, and trumpeter Nicholas Payton. (You get the idea that Mack Avenue held this big party from which two special albums, by McBride and Jordan, emerged.) 

There are many treats here, starting with the opportunity to hear Jordan with horns on two original tracks featuring Kenny Garrett, Nicholas Payton and Christian McBride, the brightly propulsive “Capitol J” and the more majestic “Bathed in the Light”. (Both Garrett and Payton might consider future projects with guitar; and horns seem to bring out another side of Jordan.) Things turn funky with Jordan strumming with Charlie Hunter on his “Walking the Dog” and a swinging reworking of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl;” Jordan simultaneously plays guitar and piano on the latter, and it’s hard to fathom unless you’ve seen this feat live. And it would sure be fun to see, live, Jordan paired with the elder statesman of all things swing, Bucky Pizzarelli, giving “Lil Darlin” a delightful helping of string savvy and, adding in modern wizard Russell Malone, a slam-bang run at “Seven Comes Eleven.” Malone returns to help close the set, Jordan’s harmonically intriguing tribute to Milton Babbit (“One for Milton”) that suggests far more than 20 fingers at work. 

With Jordan in tandem with the great Mike Stern, the two guitar virtuosos bring novel nuances to “Giant Steps,” while the combination of guitar, sax (Ronnie Laws) and violin (Regina Carter) suggests a tropical “Caravan.” Carter returns to collaborate on Jordan’s piano-only track, the “Romantic Intermezzo from Concerto for Orchestra” by Bartok. In many ways an outlier (the only truly classical track, and the most somber), Jordan’s background on his “other” instrument nevertheless plays well against the classically trained Carter. Yet the foundation for another project?  And let’s not forget that the core trio—Jordan with Charnett Moffett and Kenwood Dennard—stand well on their own (a jazzed arrangement of Debussy’s “Reverie”), no guest stars needed to generate some beautiful dialogue.

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