TRYING TO DESCRIBE STANLEY JORDAN IN SIMPLE TERMS is like trying to explain Einstein's Theory of Relativity in ten words or less. No matter what you say, you'd be leaving a lot out. And yet, that is probably what you've already done if you haven't heard the whole story. Best known as a guitarist who has made major technical and musical contributions to his instrument, Stanley Jordan has already made a name for himself as one of the most significant guitarists of the latter 20th century. After seeing him perform with his trio at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Los Angeles Times jazz critic Leonard Feather was prompted to write, "Genius is a word too often tossed around in musical circles, but it has been rightfully applied to Stanley Jordan."
Stanley uses a technique called the "Touch" or "Tapping" technique to achieve a level of orchestral complexity equaling that of a keyboard instrument. He can sound like two or three guitarists at the same time with no overdubs or other studio techniques. He says, "Basically, I use 'hammer-ons' and 'pull-offs.' These techniques have been around for a long time." But Stanley Jordan has raised this art to an unprecedented musical level, and has used it to express his unique musical vision. Other players, such as Jimmy Webster, Lenny Breau, Edward Van Halen and Emmett Chapman have also used the technique, but Stanley Jordan discovered and developed it independently, and today he is widely regarded as the first "Touch Virtuoso." He also uses traditional flat-picking and finger picking. A good example is "When Julia Smiles" from the album Flying Home. Much of the attention surrounding his sudden rise to fame in the mid 80s was based on his technique. Because the technique is so startling, so strikingly unusual, it is easy to see how it can make a dominating first impression. But what has become more and more clear through the years, is that he has the musicianship and creativity to match. His music is embued with a combination of passion, sensitivity, humor and shear brilliance. His technique never overwhelms his music. In fact, he says that since the early 80s he has been focusing much more on expressiveness than on speed and complexity. Could it be then, that many of his listeners still have not heard the full range of his abilities? Certainly what they have heard has made his live concerts legendary.
Stanley Jordan plays with an uncommon depth of feeling. Many who see him perform for the first time are struck by the emotional intensity of his playing. There are times when he seems totally immersed in the music. As a listener, it is hard not to be affected by this feeling. Before you know it, you are drawn in to a new musical world with its own rules and its own seemingly limitless possibilities. And whether he's spinning out ever-new variations on songs he's played for years, or creating new songs on the spot, his shows are dependably unpredictable. You could see him play twice in the same night and it would be a different experience. So, what kind of music does Stanley Jordan play? Although he was originally marketed as a jazz artist, his direction has boldly evolved into a broad synthesis of styles. How do you classify an artist who freely mixes baroque and blues in the same phrase? Or who can lay down a jazzy walking bass line plus chords with one hand on one guitar while simultaneously playing a rock lead with distortion and feedback on another guitar with the other hand?
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