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In a career that took flight in 1985 with commercial and critical acclaim, guitar virtuoso Stanley Jordan has consistently displayed a chameleonic musical persona of openness, imagination, versatility, and maverick daring. Be it bold reinventions of classical masterpieces or soulful explorations through pop-rock hits to blazing straight-ahead jazz forays and ultramodern improvisational works—solo or with a group—Jordan can always be counted on to take listeners on breathless journeys into the unexpected.
Key to Jordan’s fast-track acclaim was his mastery of a special technique on the guitar’s fretboard. Instead of conventional strumming and picking, Jordan’s innovative “touch technique” is an advanced form of two-handed tapping. While a handful of other players were using similar techniques, Stanley’s fluid, multilayered textures and sheer virtuosity raised the bar for excellence. But his technique, though impressive, is always a means to a musical end. His music is imbued with a warmth and sensitivity that have captured the imagination of listeners worldwide. A classically trained pianist before playing guitar, Jordan wanted greater freedom in voicing chords on his guitar, so he applied piano principles to do so. Jordan’s touch technique allows the guitarist to play melody and chords simultaneously with an unprecedented level of independence. It also allows him to play simultaneously on two different guitars, or even on guitar and piano. He says, “I think of it as a single instrument, but one with a wide range of tonal colors—that’s why I do it.”
To date, Jordan has performed in over sixty countries on six continents. He has performed at many festivals, including the Kool Jazz Festival, the Concord Jazz Festival, and the Montreux International Jazz Festival. During the 1980s, he collaborated with a diverse array of artists, including performances with Art Blakey and Richie Cole and recordings with Stanley Clarke and Kenny Rogers. The track with Rogers, “Morning Desire,” became America’s number-one country song in 1986. Later, Jordan became a frequent guest of Les Paul during Paul’s legendary Monday nights at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. Today, Jordan performs frequently as a soloist and with his band, as well as collaborating with other guitarists such as Kevin Eubanks, Sharon Isbin and Muriel Anderson. He is also a frequent guest with jam bands such as the Dave Matthews Band, the String Cheese Incident, Phil Lesh, Moe (generally stylized as moe.), and Umphrey’s McGee.
To say that Stanley Jordan turned jazz guitar upside down when he came to prominence in the mid-1980s is almost a literal truth.
To see and hear Stanley Jordan play guitar is to witness higher-level instrumental performance.