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Kidd Jordan: Messin' with the Kidd

By Published: September 18, 2007
AAJ: You made the transition to professional musician very quickly.

KJ: Yeah, I guess you could say that. When I came up as a freshman, I started playing with the fellows. In fact when I came up for orientation, I made a gig with some of the fellows there, because they had some charts and they were looking for somebody, and I could read the music. So they gave me a gig the first week. One of those kinds of things.

AAJ: Your resume lists a lot of interesting people.

KJ: I played a lot of shows. When shows would come to town, they put bands together. I was on contract at one time. I used to play with show bands—play Broadway plays and all that. You get a chance to play with a whole lot of people when they need somebody. A lot of times people would come to New Orleans and make up bands. If they couldn't get someone to leave with them, we could play with them when they were in town. Sometimes they'd go to another town and get someone else, and so on and so on. Just fill the need, you know? I liked playing with all them different kinds of people. It gives you a different outlook on what it is.

I saw early in the game where so many people got tied up dealing with one kind of thing. I know fellows now who were playing like Charlie Parker when I came to college—majority of them not even playing no more. I mean, could play exactly like Charlie Parker. They got fed up with what they were doing. So I'm just trying to deal with all kinds of music. In fact I'm one of them that could just practice scales all day. I don't need to be playing music; all I need to do is be pushing buttons, like people say. I always wanted to be an improviser too. I contend the majority of people don't improvise because they practice the majority of stuff they play. They get it down in order to play it, and I really want to improvise. That's one reason I didn't buy into that whole thing, like cats would be learning all them tunes. I'd just say, "Man, I want to go and play. And then a lot of cats don't want to sound bad, but you got to sound bad if you're going to improvise. You're in some unknown territories, just playing what you hear.

kidd jordan

Like, for instance, I was in Chicago last weekend. Somebody said, "Man, when you were here the other day, I heard you playing this, and I said, "Well, teach it to me. I don't know what I played. He said, "The other night you played it different. I said, "Tonight I've got a different set of circumstances. I'm feeling it a different way. I've got to play what I hear. If I don't hear nothing, I don't hear it.

AAJ: It's like that old story about someone handing Coltrane a transcription of one of his solos and asking him to play it. Of course, he said, "I can't play this.

KJ: That's right. I know I couldn't play my stuff if they transcribed it. When you play this kind of music, maybe you have a good night. It's very seldom I feel like I played anything. Like Palm of Soul, when I left the studio, man, I thought, "Goddam, I'm sorry I took them people's money for this record. I thought it was going to be another kind of thing. I thought it was going to be one of those knock-down-drag-out things. When they pulled out the gongs and the bells and all the whistles and the African things, I said, uh-oh, this is another thing. I suppose I had been ready, but I thought it was going to be one of them kind of sessions.

You just got to play on what you hear. When you improvise, you may sound good today, and you may not sound good in another month. My thing is, if you sound good once, you may in your life sound good again. Improvising is chance music, but who wants to take that chance? Majority of the time I'm trying to practice, I'm trying to find a reed to deal with. Like Palm of Soul, I'd just bought that mouthpiece. I said, "I'm just going to bulldog it through. I'm going to make this reed work. Since then, I've been going through all kinds of reeds, but I'm determined not to give up on this mouthpiece. It sounds good sometimes, sometimes it doesn't. The majority of the time, I make it do what I want it to do. Then I'll come away saying, "Goddam, it didn't sound good tonight.

AAJ: Did you hear Eloping With The Sun?

KJ: I don't listen to too many records. We was in Paris on the same gig, and they had Joe Morris and [William Parker] and Hamid. I saw them do it. But I didn't think this was going to be that kind of thing. Some serious energy. You got to listen when you play with them because there ain't no such thing as keys. One thing I felt good about when I left that session was that I played in key with the gongs. I thought, at least anybody who hears this knows I can hear. A lot of times, cats be playing, especially with this music, and people who can hear sometimes say, "Man, you're playing like you're playing changes. Closer than playing changes, because sometimes cats can play changes and play all around them. They've got a new system the young cats play, where they play the changes, but they don't play the sound of the tune. I knew I was playing within the scope of what was there, but on the spur of the moment.

We played a gig in Brooklyn the night after that, and we really came together too. We stretched it a little more; we were more volatile. I really liked that one, much more at the time than what we did in the studio. But now that I've been listening to this, I've grown accustomed to liking this a little bit more.

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