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Vision Festival 2008: Day 2


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Parker and Bang were bowing fast, with Jordan also in testifying mode, when Anderson emerged from the mix with his own brand of righteous sermonizing as they closed to a standing ovation. What a night!
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

Kidd Jordan, Dave Burrell, Hamiet Bluiett, Maynard Chatters, Billy Bang, William Parker, Hamid Drake, Joel Futterman, Clyde Kerr, Gerald Cleaver, Fred Anderson

13th Annual Vision Festival
Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, New York City
June 11, 2008

It has become customary for the second night of the Vision Festival to be used to honor the lifetime achievement of one of the luminaries of the free jazz firmament and tonight, following in the footsteps of Bill Dixon, Sam Rivers and Fred Anderson, it was the turn of New Orleans saxophonist Edward Kidd Jordan.

At 73 years old Jordan has worked with a galaxy of stars, ranging from Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Aretha Franklin to Ornette Coleman, Cannonball Adderley and Cecil Taylor. A renowned educator, having taught at the Southern University at New Orleans for over 27 years, Jordan finally retired last summer, post Hurricane Katrina. That gives a taste, but his full biography makes recommended reading.

The celebration really began with the panel discussion that afternoon—The Role of Art in the Healing of New Orleans—moderated by journalist Larry Blumenfield, with contributions from writer Kalamu Ya Salaam, promoter Rob Cambre, cartoonist Josh Neufeld, and Jordan's son Kent. The conclusion was that post-Katrina, classic New Orleans jazz culture, with second lines, funeral parades and Mardi Gras Indians, was over. Kidd Jordan joined the panel towards the end, but at that point all the questions focused on Jordan himself, and he obliged with an entertaining recounting of tales, not that anyone on the panel really minded the change of topic.

The evening was constructed around Jordan as honoree as well, with the saxophonist being the featured artist in four out of the five sets, the remaining one featuring two of his sons. Each of the sets demonstrated a different facet of Jordan's artistry, and they certainly testified to his amazing stamina. Much bonhomie was on display throughout the evening with a heartfelt tribute to Jordan by organizer Patricia Nicholson Parker and, like previous honorees, Jordan was to receive a framed painting by artist Jeff Schlanger (the one hanging at the back of the stage for the duration of the festival), as well as enhanced financial recognition.

Kidd Jordan with Dave Burrell, Hamiet Bluiett, and Maynard Chatters

In addition to the programmed lineup with pianist Dave Burrell and baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett, Jordan was joined by New Orleans patriarch and trombonist Maynard Chatters, intriguingly on piano strings, though he was completely hidden behind an upright piano, manhandled onto the stage for this performance, for the duration of the set. Burrell has played alongside Jordan in a group featuring Louis Moholo-Moholo at two previous Vision Festivals, while Jordan was part of Bluiett's Clarinet Choir and was instrumental in bringing together the World Saxophone Quartet.

Hamiet Bluiett and Kidd Jordan

Jordan and Blueitt began in tandem with squalling scrutiny of the upper reaches of their horns, provoking the question of where they could go from here? The answer of course was everywhere. This was one of those unorthodox situations in which Jordan excels, and for 30 minutes the freely improvised single piece morphed between quartets, trios and duos based on some mysterious, though satisfying, hidden framework.

Bluiett added structure at times with gruff riffs and foghorn blurts but generally shadowed Jordan closely, especially when the falsetto register beckoned. This free form setting drew a spirited response from Burrell, manically sweeping across the high end, and almost boxing his keyboard in one face-off with Jordan. It wasn't all high-octane pyrotechnics: Jordan stilled the accompaniment at one stage for a sanctified cadenza, and elsewhere the blues inflections, never too far from the surface, emerged for a nuanced investigation of gut-wrenching lower registers.

Even in this heat, there was no hint of Jordan holding back at the start of what would be a long night.

Jordan, Billie Bang, William Parker and Hamid Drake

It must be every free jazz saxophonist's dream to have the William Parker-Hamid Drake rhythm section at their disposal. For Jordan this was the first of two occasions this evening and he made the most of it, abetted by the non stop dynamo that is violinist Billy Bang. A free ensemble opening left Bang bowing with increasing vigor, setting up Jordan to explode into the stratosphere, with energy levels sufficient to levitate the stage. As Drake and Parker meshed in a groove, Bang riffed in support of Jordan, who was exploring the stage and throwing poses aplenty to keep the numerous photographers clicking like firecrackers.

Billy Bang and Kidd Jordan

Jordan appeared to have a bountiful supply of energy, though even he had to sit down after one scorching face-off with Bang. Dancing from foot to foot, the violinist attacked the rhythm as the pulse accelerated. There was little let up, even in a bass and tenor saxophone duet, and with Bang scraping his bow harshly and Parker slapping his bass, Jordan's connection conjured a concatenation of screaming dervishes.

The spirit was most definitely with Jordan, and towards the end he came forward to scream "This is a song about Ayler" into the mic, amid the tumult. At the finale he signed off with "Don't ever forget about Albert Ayler." Even after such a cathartic outpouring Drake was keeping the pulse ticking, ever with an eye to launching a fresh assault if anyone showed the slightest inclination, though he was ultimately thwarted by the standing ovation which brought closure to all before it.

Jordan, Joel Futterman, Clyde Kerr, Parker and Gerald Cleaver

For a man half his age, the effort so far merited a long rest, but after a twenty minute changeover Jordan was back with long-time New Orleans associate Clyde Kerr on trumpet, Joel Futterman on piano, and William Parker again on bass, but sadly without the billed Alvin Fielder, who was ill and replaced by Gerald Cleaver on drums. In recognition Jordan dedicated the set to Fielder.

This was a looser, more abstract set, comprising a single 34-minute improvised piece. After a quiet start marred by a sound problem that necessitated the loss of Futterman's monitor, Kerr propounded a long, fluttering, jabbing trumpet solo over what became a turbulent churning pulse. Jordan dug deep into his Trane bag this set, declaiming ecstatically above the restless rhythmic swells. Even so, there were also moments of delicacy to latch on to, such as the soulful duet between Parker's wavering arco and Futterman's skipping piano, which drew appreciative cheers.

It soon became clear that Jordan and the pianist have a special relationship, given physical expression by the saxophonist's position close to the piano and an intense mutual concentration that made it seem as if the pair were off in a separate band. At one point Jordan stilled the controlled mayhem for a tender duet with Futterman's scraping, clanking piano strings. As the querulous tenor became ever more vulnerable, paraphrasing "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child," Futterman laid down lush chords and arpeggios in a shimmering backdrop, Parker pitched in with an arco drone and Cleaver splashed his cymbals for a beautiful, literally spiritual, ending.

New Orleans Pays Tribute

This time Jordan did get a break—though without both Fielder and the scheduled Donald Harrison, Jordan's sons Marlon on trumpet and Kent on flute and piccolo led a paradoxically inside group through four tight pieces as a tribute to their father. Marlon Jordan contributed some crackling trumpet and Cleaver took his due also with a powerful drum excursion, in their 35-minute set.

Fred Anderson with the Kidd Jordan Quartet

Having first played together back in 1985, Jordan and Fred Anderson boast such a rapport that their reunion promised to be one of the highlights of the Festival, and so it proved. Reprising their dream team rhythm section duties, William Parker and Hamid Drake completed the quartet, whose classic Two Days in April (Eremite, 2000) is now happily rereleased, and who, in a nice piece of symmetry, were also the headline act when the Vision Festival paid tribute to Anderson back in 2005.

Billy Bang, Fred Anderson and Kidd Jordan

Their musings always manifest a strong link to their shared heritage with the blues, albeit abstracted yet an important touchstone, and so it was no surprise that they started in a two tenor conclave blending call and response with chase. Anderson was inspired and drew a simpatico response from Jordan, who echoed and extemporized his veteran partner's lines, before bass and drums kicked in and Anderson took off for a strong bottom end solo over an ever evolving groove.

When Billy Bang returned to the stage, the supercharged atmosphere became yet more electric, as he joined Anderson in a free chorale over which Jordan squealed in glorious abandon. Though a problem with his saxophone's ligature disrupted Jordan's flow, the others picked up the baton with barely a pause.

As the intensity grew, Anderson's AACM comrade Kalaparush Maurice McIntyre shyly walked onstage with his tenor saxophone and plunged headlong into the five way interplay. Both Bang and Kalaparush chose their lines carefully to add structure and support. Towards the end Jordan and Kalaparush intertwined tenors over a slowing rhythm. Drake switched to mallets for a final cadenza. Parker and Bang were bowing fast, with Jordan also in testifying mode, when Anderson emerged from the mix with his own brand of righteous sermonizing as they closed to a standing ovation. What a night!

The next night also held forth great promise with Bluiett and Bang returning, a set from saxophonist Oliver Lake's new project, James Spaulding's Swing Expressions and a collective Ensemble of Possibilities featuring Rob Brown, Daniel Carter and Whit Dickey among the lineup.

Photo Credit
John Sharpe

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