In a successful career of over 25 years, guitarist Stanley Jordan has always displayed his versatilityequally adept at blues, straight-ahead jazz and ever inventive with classical masterpieces. His virtuosity and improvisational prowess are a given, and on Friends, he also shows his skill on piano on two numbers. Primarily, he brings in old pals from various backgrounds and delivers terrific arrangements, ranging across the jazz spectrum, mixing in originals with swing, post bop, samba, blues, pop and a couple from Bartók and Chopin. Jordan makes roughly two appearances with each main guest, with all the pairings in different styles; all are great.
The opener, Jordan's "Circle J," features impressive solos by Kenny Garrett on soprano sax and Nicholas Payton on trumpet. Jordan shines, comping behind the two. The horns appear again in another Jordan original, "Bathed in Light." It starts with a mellow blend from Garrett and Payton, who then contribute solos. Jordan follows suit, gently accentuating the romantic, meditative mood.
A real treat comes when he pairs up with guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli on Neal Hefti's Count Basie classic, "Li'l Darlin,'" hearkening back several decades with this honey-coated ballad. The two then go back even further to the swing era, coming up with Charlie Christian's "Seven come Eleven," made famous by Benny Goodman as a showcase for the guitarist and also featuring peerless guitarist Russell Malone. Pizzarelli has a rousing solo, followed by a hip, three-way guitar duel at the song's end.
Things go in a different direction with violinist Regina Carter onboard, as Jordan explores Bartók's "Concerto for Orchestra" in a sensitive, shimmering, hauntingly beautiful arrangement. On Jordan's "Samba Delight," Carter follows Ronnie Laws on soprano, interjecting a tropical touch with her violin.
For Jordan's "Walkin' the Dog," guitarist Charlie Hunter appears and the two guitarists become like peas in a pod, picked from B.B. King's field. They mesh beautifully again in Jordan's reworking of Katy Perry's pop tune "I Kissed A Girl," giving it a delightfully bluesy.
In a press release, Jordan says that this collection truly speaks to his belief that ..."when you integrate styles, you combine them into something new while still remaining true to the original sources." His best argument is this recording.
Capital J; Walkin' the Dog; Lil' Darlin'; Giant Steps; I Kissed A Girl; Seven Come Eleven; Samba Delight; Bathed in Light; Romantic Intermezzo From Bartok's Concerto For Orchestra; Reverie; One For Milton.
Stanley Jordan: guitar, piano (5, 9); Bucky Pizzarelli: guitar (3, 6); Mike Stern: guitar (4); Russell Malone: guitar (6, 11); Charlie Hunter: guitar (2, 5); Regina Carter: violin (7, 9); Kenny Garrett: soprano sax (1, 8); Ronnie Laws: soprano sax (7); Nicholas Payton: trumpet (1, 8); Christian McBride: bass (1, 8); Charnett Moffett: bass (5, 6, 10); Kenwood Dennard: drums (1-8, 10, 11).
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