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Clifford Jordan: The Mellow Side of Clifford Jordan

Joel Roberts By

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The jazz world lost one of its great personalities when Clifford Jordan died in 1993. These informal, exceptionally intimate sessions, recorded at Mapleshade's Maryland studio between 1987 and 1991, capture Jordan's big, warm-toned tenor sax in a variety of settings ranging from sax / piano and sax / guitar duos to organ trios and four-horn jams. The album focuses mainly on slow blues and ballads, including Gershwin's "Embraceable You," Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes," and a Jordan original, "Jug's Groove," dedicated to fellow Chicago sax legend Gene Ammons.

Given that most of these tunes were called and arranged on the spot, including two freely improvised numbers, the performances here are extraordinarily well-developed. Among the talented cast joining Jordan, several of whom just happened to stop by the studio and were invited to sit in, are pianist Larry Willis, organist Mike LeDonne, guitarist Rudy Turner, trombonist Julian Priester, and saxophonist Carter Jefferson. Percussion is provided on a couple of tracks by Nasser Abadey, playing an assortment of pots and vases found around the studio. Of special note are the contributions of Kenny Reed, a little-known Baltimore-area trumpet player, and Chris Anderson, the reclusive pianist and former teacher of Herbie Hancock, who joins Jordan for a haunting take on Ellington and Strayhorn's "Daydream."

Jordan's playing throughout these sessions is a joy. His rich, bluesy sound evokes a lifetime of jazz experience, yet always remains true to his Chicago roots. This beautifully recorded album is a fitting tribute to a


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