I feel really stupid for only now checking out You Don't Know What Love Is — Marlon Jordan featuring Stephanie Jordan. While definitely a great example of Marlon Jordan's mastery and versatility as a Jazz trumpeter as well as a showcase for Stephanie Jordan's talent as a true Jazz vocalist, this album is a Jordan family reunion that includes, father Kidd Jordan, brother Kent Jordan, uncle Alvin Batiste and had Rachael Jordan as both executive producer and on violin. The bass work of David Pulphus, Troy Davis on drums and Amy Thiaville on cello all came up to the considerable musical bar set by the Jordan Family. Arranged by Darrel Lavigne and produced by Marlon himself the quality of this CD is what I call "transparent," like there are no electronics... nothing between you and these outstanding performances, but air.
In the very first cut, "My Favorite Things," Marlon draws in even the most timid listener, and before the "smooth Jazz" ear can baulk, he's doing Coltrane's rifts on trumpet (Trumpets do not have a natural series of keys for the scale. To rift on a sax, flute, clarinet or trombone involves moving in a fairly natural direction, on trumpet it is raw discrete fingering of notes. To do what Coltrane did on trumpet is beyond amazing.) and then before more tender eared listeners have a chance to protest or bail, they are listening to Kidd Jordan, doing his thing, and... getting it. That kind of stylistic hand off from a son to a father, with such understanding and respect was an emotional experience for me.
Just as John Coltrane's version seduced and introduced many, including me to appreciation for another level of Jazz expression, this cut has the same power, the Jordan family educator culture came out in this completely original, but complete faithful rendition of one of my favorite compositions.
"All Blues" is a like classic Jam session, but with a structural backbone and it is so so soulful, Marlon's virtuosity with a stylistic reference to Miles, and Alvin Batiste, who wore out the "bottom" of the horn. There is nothing more sexy or bluesy than the bottom of the clarinet range, and Uncle Batiste wore it out. Kind of slow and just... funky.
The violins! When your sister is the executive producer and plays violin you are a blessed child. Stephanie does "You Don't Know" in the upper half of her range, which to me is spooky, evoking Nancy Wilson instantly. She is hot and bluesy in this piece and you hear Stephanie come through because she goes places where Nancy just never went. And then Marlon keeps it in that pocket, with clean crisp phrases that seem effortless. (That's the thing with Marlon, if you see him on the set sometimes, you could imagine Miles or Coltrane, seeming almost bored, mind someplace else, like music is the last thing on his mind, and then he gets up on the bandstand!)
"Flamingo" is beautiful and a magnificent showcase for Marlon's bright crispy style (he has several), with a Darryl Lavigne piano solo that turned into pure Latin blues and strings, all woven together for a unique rendition and blending of Latin rhythms and phrasing with a definite blues overtone.
In "Portrait," I felt Stephanie Jordan. Sung in more of her mid to low range, where she has such authority, this piece is uniquely Stephanie Jordan in style. The woman is blessed with quite a vocal range, but to me this is her sweet spot.
"You Leave Me Breathless" uses the strength of her alto range as well, and Marlon is rifting again, this time handing off to uncle Alvin Batiste. It is such a blessing to have him included in this work.
Got to run now, but I am grateful to have this in my collection. But let me warn you that this is a listening piece, smooth, but complex in a way that you may not appreciate until you're almost finished hearing it the first time through, and realize that you really didn't hear it all, your mind and ears not focused enough.
So I got a glass of Merlot, closed my eyes and let the Jordan family and company soothes my soul and stretches my musical mind at the same time. You Don't Know What Love Is is definitely not background music... Well, except maybe for making love. I'll have to try that later... and that would make it three times in a row... listening that is.
Lloyd Dennis is an author and producer of CresentCityLive.com which dedicates its writings to love, marriage and family living, mentoring, and live entertainment in New Orleans. They call him "Love Doctor" for what he writes and teaches about managing personal, business and workplace relationships.
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