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Interviews

Kidd Jordan: Messin' with the Kidd

By Published: September 18, 2007
AAJ: Tell me about playing with Professor Longhair.

kidd jordan

KJ: I was on a record with Professor Longhair. Alligator Records, we had a big band on there. I used to make some gigs with Fess in the early days. We'd just sit down and listen and play a riff behind him and solo. That's all that was. Fess would set up something and you'd play a riff. When I played with Fess, it wasn't no concerts, it was dancing. Most of the time I was playing with Fess, I wasn't playing tenor, I was playing baritone or maybe alto. Tenor guys got all the solos. Sometimes they'd give us one solo a night on a baritone, and that was it.

They had another dude, Snooks Eaglin. Snooks used to play all kinds of stuff. He played "Malagena on one of those gigs, playing a Spanish thing and all kinds of stuff. He was a very interesting dude to play with. So that meant you had to listen to what he was doing in order to play. I was in a band called the Hawkettes, a pre-thing to the Neville Brothers. The Nevilles were in the Hawkettes band. They had one them little hot bands around New Orleans playing rhythm and blues. They had a hit—I wasn't in the band when they made the hit—called "Mardi Gras Mambo. [Drummer] Idris Muhammad was in the band. Zigaboo [Modeliste, founding member of the Meters] was a little boy sitting on the porch listening to us play, so you know how long ago that's been.

AAJ: You put in some time with Sun Ra?

KJ: I was never on the road with Sunny, but every time I came to New York, or when he came to New Orleans, I played with the band. I never did travel with him because I was always teaching. Whenever they were in close proximity, always had a thing with Sunny, always put an outfit on me and said come on over and play. He did that with a whole lot of people. Some of my students played with Sun Ra. Samaria, the drummer that died, he was one of the last drummers Sunny had. He took three or four of my students in the band with him. It was always fun with Sunny. Sunny would be playing stuff, and I could use my ear. John Gilmore was sitting back there playing all kinds of stuff. It was always fun to play with them, as loose as they were.

AAJ: And you recorded with Marshall Allan.

KJ: Yeah, that's right. Me and Marshall have been tight for a long time. Marshall's a hell of a player, man.

AAJ: You strictly play tenor these days?

KJ: Right. I haven't played alto in a very long time.

AAJ: What narrowed it down to the tenor for you?

KJ: The tenor is harder than alto. The tenor's the hardest instrument there is for me to play. I can play soprano. I played all kinds of concertos on alto through school. In fact, there's a friend of mine who's got a record he's putting out now, where he wrote a concerto for violin, but the violin player didn't play it, so he did it for me and synthesizer orchestra. He synthesized the whole orchestra part and gave me the things for about a week and told me he was coming to bring the tracks so I could get a click track going with it in the studio. He said he didn't want it clean, clean, clean, like a regular concerto. He just put it out a couple of weeks ago. He had two more tracks. I pulled my tenor out and said, "I don't want to listen to them. Get in the studio and run them down. I'll play against them. They came out remarkably well.

kidd jordan

So that's the only thing other than the records I have with my band that I played alto on. But in the early days, I would only play alto. I never did record other than rhythm-and-blues on a baritone. I played baritone with Hamiett Bluiett on different occasions. I may have played baritone with Sun Ra a couple of times. I'd have to think about it. Tenor still gives me a problem. The way the tenor's made, them low notes just not going to happen. You've got to keep fighting and keep on doing it to get the complete range of the horn, say from that low B-flat up to five B-flats above—way up in the altissimo range. That's the challenge. That's why sometimes I don't worry about no jazz, I just worry about making the horn work. If I get to jazz, I just use my ears and make that work for me.

Tenor's a hell of an instrument, the mouthpieces and reeds and all of that. That's another big hassle. That's the thing that keeps me going. If I get over that, maybe I can go to something else. I played soprano and sopranino at some points. That gave me a challenge. I used to practice soprano every day, then I went to sopranino, because I just love saxophones. But tenor is still kicking my butt, so that's why I'm dealing with it.

AAJ: You were responsible for organizing the World Saxophone Quartet in 1976.

KJ: Right. I was in New York that summer playing, hanging out, and I was playing with all them dudes. After I went back to school, I got permission from the school to bring a group in, so I had to name them something. First, it was the New York Saxophone Quartet. Then they found out there was a legitimate saxophone group in New York named the New York Saxophone Quartet, so they had to go to the World Saxophone Quartet. The first gig we had a rhythm section playing with us. I played with them; I was the fifth saxophone. All those dudes, I liked them and we were pretty good friends. Me and Bluiett been tight a long time. Bluiett's such a remarkable baritone player. He plays different form anybody I ever saw playing baritone. But at one time, I considered myself first call on baritone around the shows, because I was playing baritone, bass clarinet, flute, all of them. When you play the shows, you got to double and triple on the instrument, and I always was a pretty good reader till I got old and my eyesight got bad.

A lot of times cats used to tell me, "You should go to California, be in the studios. But I stayed around home and did what I had to do, just teaching school and making shows.


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