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Duke Jordan: In Copenhagen

Chris Mosey By

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Irving Stanley "Duke" Jordan, pianist in legendary altoist Charlie Parker's classic quintet, recorded this solo album late in life. It shows he had lost none of the qualities that led Bird to pick him to take part—along with trumpeter Miles Davis, bassist Tommy Potter and drummer Max Roach—in such landmark recordings as "Bird of Paradise," "Dewey Square," "Dexterity" and "Embraceable You."

It also shows that, as a composer, Jordan still had the chops that gave birth to "Jor-Du," which trumpeter Clifford Brown turned into a jazz standard. There are six originals, including a new look at "Jor-Du." Perhaps the best of the others is the opener, "No Problem," which demonstrates Jordan's gift for melody, his need to explore harmonically and his desire to find a place in the greater tradition of jazz—there are even hints of stride piano here and there.

In Copenhagen reveals a restless, questing musical intelligence at work. But so, too, does it demonstrate someone striving for reconciliation with a life that, in the 1960s, saw him reduced to earning his living as a New York cab driver.

Fed up with such indignity, Jordan went to live in Denmark in 1975, remaining there until his death in 2006. People in Scandinavia still remembered him, and he could find work in music. Jordan lived for his work; as this album demonstrates, he would have been incapable of just chilling out and enjoying the blondes and the smørgåsbord.

It takes a particularly edgy mindset to create a medley out of "Tea For Two" and "Stardust," and to pepper two old love songs such as "All The Things You Are" and "The Way You Look Tonight" with strange, sometimes quite sinister twists and turns. Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays," at one point, seems about to descend into a kind of manic boogie. Jordan was always an intensely interesting player.

Although this set appears as part of Storyville's excellent In Copenhagen series, it was actually conceived in Helsingør, where Jordan would practice on an old upright piano in the basement of the public library. He wanted to record the album there, but unfortunately a few of the upright's strings were slightly out of tune, so instead he cut it on a Steinway at Copenhagen's Focus Studio.

One telling point: there is no be-bop. Jordan didn't like the term, thought it put people off, and confined him to a particular category. He preferred to call what he played simply modern jazz. Do people really care about such things? It's comforting to imagine at least some of the visitors and staff of Helsingør public library being caught unawares by the music drifting up from the basement—to hope that they appreciated the tangled beauty of what they were hearing and, perhaps, glimpsed the poignancy of Duke Jordan's story.

Track Listing: No Problem; They Can't Take That Away From Me; Lush Life; Everything Happens To Me; All The Things You Are; The Way You Look Tonight; Jor-Du; Tea For Two/Star Dust; Yesterdays; Flight To Jordan; Misty; It's Only A Paper Moon; Don't Blame Me; Parisian Hop; Two Loves; Night Walk; How Deep Is The Ocean?; Three Little Words.

Personnel: Duke Jordan: piano.

Title: In Copenhagen | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Storyville Records


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