Jazz CD Reviews
Stanley Jordan – State of Nature – Mack Avenue
Published on April 13, 2008
(Stanley Jordan, guitar, piano & synth; Charnett Moffett, bass; David Haynes, drums; and guests on cello, sitar, percussion, keyboards, and vocals)
The amazing Stanley Jordan is back, 14 years after he made his big splash with his album Magic Touch, using his unique “tap” technique on the strings and blazing a highly individual path in jazz guitar playing. He has explored many different avenues of music but this is really his first major release in over ten years.
Jordan became frustrated with the commercial music industry and retreated to the Sedona area in Arizona, where he owned and operated a book and music store. The guitarist studied music therapy, nature awareness, and became more concerned about global warming and the deterioration of our planet. Part of the reason for this new album, he says, “were revelations I discovered in my journey to try to become a better person.” There have been a number of jazz CDs recently with a deeper spiritual or humanitarian message, and Jordan’s take on man’s relationship to nature and humankind is I feel one of the most successful. For one thing there is no narration or readings of material to upset the flow of the music. His message is carried in the instrumental music and sounds. There are some actuality recordings mixed in, but they are environmental nature recordings more in the style of certain New Age albums, but with greater musical depth and creativity.
Two great jazz standards are given lovely but more relaxing treatments than usually heard: All Blues and Song for My Father. On both of these Jordan is heard on both guitar and piano simultaneously, without overdubbing, accompanied by just bass and drums. (I’m glad Jordan branched out to the piano rather than becoming a vocalist as happened to another great guitarist who’ll go unnamed…) He returns to guitar only for the Jobim classic How Insensitive. The fifth track is a surprise – Jordan’s solo guitar transcription of the slow movement of Mozart’s Elvira Madigan piano concerto. The work fits beautifully with Jordan’s tap technique. Most of the rest of the 14 tracks are his originals, often including both his work on guitar and piano plus often some subtle synth additions. On Healing Waves he does a duo with cellist Mela Weiss, his piano and some nature recordings. To wrap up everything in a more standard pop music style, the album is concluded with Jordan’s arrangement of Joe Jackson’s 1982 hit Steppin’ Out, with cello, sitar and two vocalists. But in its final seconds there is a return to nature sounds to remind the listener that inspiration and healing is the goal of this music, not just entertainment.
TrackList: A Place in Space, All Blues, Forest Garden, Insensatez, Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 21: Andante, Song for My Father, Mind Games #1, Ocean Breeze, Healing Waves, Mind Games #2, Shadow Dance, Mind Games #3, Prayer for the Sea, Steppin’ Out.
– John Henry