May 28, 2024

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Clifford Jordan doesn’t get the attention or praise he deserves today: Video

We are not sure why. The tenor saxophonist was superb and served up smart, soulful energy and improvisation. Born in Chicago, Jordan spent his early years there playing with touring artists who came to town.

At age 26, Jordan moved to New York, where he recorded five albums for Blue Note in 1957 and ’58, including as a sideman on Horace Silver’s Further Explorations. Albums with trumpeter Lee Morgan and trombonist J.J. Johnson followed before Jordan began recording for Riverside and Jazzland in the early 1960s as a leader. He toured Europe with Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy in 1964, and recorded frequently in the late 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. During the ’70s, he recorded Glass Bead Games, which is a terrific album.

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Jordan’s very first album was Blowing in From Chicago, which he recorded for Blue Note in March 1957. Jordan was joined by tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, Horace Silver (p), Curly Russell (b) and Art Blakey (d). Gilmore also grew up in Chicago and would spend roughly four decades with Sun Ra and his avant-garde Arkestra starting in 1956. In the late 1950s, he so impressed John Coltrane that Coltrane studied informally with him to adapt Gilmore’s free sound.

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What’s odd about Blowing in From Chicago is why Blue Note felt it needed to team Jordan with Gilmore (above), unless they were looking for a tenor battle thing. Pairing the two makes it difficult for the average listener to distinguish between Jordan and Gilmore, and one wonders why Jordan needed the chaperone. In addition, Gilmore was a bit more seasoned so he stands out a little more, also not great for Jordan. So you know, Jordan plays the lead parts with a mellower tone while Gilmore has the sharper, more aggressive sound.

The album’s songs are John Neely’s Status Quo, Jordan’s Bo-Till,Gigi Gryce’s Blue Lights, Charlie Parker’s Billie’s Bounce, Jordan’s Evil Eye and Silver’s Everywhere and Jordan and Gilmore’s Let It Stand.

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Now that you’re aware the album features two tenor saxophonists and who’s playing which parts, the listening experience becomes much more fascinating, especially on Status Quo, Everywhereand Let It Stand. All three are gorgeous hard-bop compositions. Jordan and Gilmore play like two large Harley or Honda motorcycles riding along at a clip on the highway. Both have a big sound and both move along at a steady clip. They are greatly assisted by one of the great hard bop rhythm sections—with Silver’s heavy, funky comping on piano and Blakey’s driving force on drums. The more you listen to this album, the more you grow accustomed to the distinct sound of the two players and enjoy the exchanges. Best of all, it’s the perfect album to start exploring Jordan’s discography.

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Clifford Jordan was born in 1931 and died in March 1993; John Gilmore was born in 1931 and died in August 1995. Jordan died of lung cancer and Gilmore of emphysema. One wonders whether a career in toxic smokey clubs played a fundamental role in the deterioration of their health.

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