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Stanley Jordan: Friends

Jeff Tamarkin reviews Stanley Jordan's 'Friends' album

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Stanley Jordan

It’s refreshing that, for this album he simply calls Friends, Stanley Jordan didn’t reach out into the worlds of commercial pop and R&B to recruit arena-filling names to assist him, as so many others have done. He stays within the jazz community, signifying that his goal in inviting these nine guests was to make a more artistically satisfying record, not a higher-profile one. It was a smart choice: nearly three decades after his tapping technique to guitar-playing made him a star-and three years after returning from a decade-long layoff-Jordan has come up with one of his most impressive and diverse efforts.

Several of the album’s highlights occur when Jordan pairs with another guitarist. On the Neal Hefti-penned “Li’l Darlin'” Jordan and Bucky Pizzarelli maintain the languid tempo of the familiar Count Basie arrangement, trading strums and tastefully picked solos while extricating the melody from its traditional blues/big-band setting. “One for Milton,” written and performed by Jordan, guitarist Russell Malone and drummer Kenwood Dennard, is for the late composer Milton Babbitt; its free-for-all improvisation reflects the composer’s adventurism and mathematical approach.

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