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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 afternoonThe Role of Art in the Healing of New Orleansmoderated 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