Pianist Duke Jordan has always been exceptional. At age 25, in 1947, he began playing and recording with the Charlie Parker Quintet, which included Miles Davis (tp), Tommy Potter (b) and Max Roach (d). As a bebop pianist, Jordan's genius was his ability to operate on three levels at once. He kept superb time on the keyboard, on ballads or hell-raisers; he had a terrific sense of space, pausing momentarily in places to let the sound settle in the ear; and he had a soulful depth and grace that was lush and sophisticated. As a result, Jordan recorded many solid albums.
Today, let's look at his first recording session as a leader in January 1954. Recording since 1945, starting with alto saxophonist Floyd Horsecollar" Williams, Jordan quickly became an in-demand bop pianist in New York. The following year he was with trumpeter Roy Eldridge and then tenor saxophonist Allen Eager before teaming with Parker on his East Coast Dial sessions. Jordan recorded with Stan Getz in 1949 with an all-star bop octet. Then came tenor saxophonists Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt during their run on the Prestige label in 1950.
Jordan also was in the superb Stan Getz Quintet in 1952 with Jimmy Raney (g), Bill Crow (b) and Frank Isola (d), and the Getz Quartet, when Getz used Jordan, Bill and Kenny Clarke (d). By 1953, Jordan was recording with trombonist Eddie Bert on Bert's album, Kaleidoscope, with Sal Salvador (g) Clyde Lombardi (b) Mel Zelnick (d). So by the time he recorded as the leader of his own trio in 1954, Jordan had played with one championship team after the next.
The album, Duke Jordan Trio, was recorded in New York for Vogue producer Henri Renaud, who at the time was in the city recording American jazz artists for the French label. The trio consisted of Duke Jordan (p), Gene Ramey (b) and Lee Abrams (d). The 11 songs recorded were three spectacular Jordan originals—Minor Encamp (which would become a jazz standard known as Jordu), Scotch Blues and the wonderful Wait and See. Then came a series of standards with alternate takes—Embraceable You, Darn That Dream, They Can't Take That Away From Me, Just One of Those Things and Parker's Confirmation, the latter played with Jordanian intricacy that virtually reinvented the song.
If you're looking for an entry point for Duke Jordan, this is a good place to start. From here you can work backward and dig the Parker, Ammons and Sttit, and Getz sessions. As for moving forward, we'll do just that over the coming days.
Duke Jordan died in 2006 at age 84 in Copenhagen, where he'd been living since 1978.
JazzWax clips: Here's Wait and See...
Here's Embraceable You...
This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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