Clifford Jordan’s big band was a warm and swinging group with great jazz soloists, akin to Dizzy’s big band from the late ’40s. That’s just what this CD lays down—a large, joyous jam session of seasoned musicians. JazzTimes says Clifford is “…clearly inspired throughout…he caresses the ballads with long wisps of smoky-toned lyricism, and ignites the cookers with his fiery amalgam of blues and bop.” Fifteen first-rate jazzmen, all personal friends and admirers of Clifford, jam with him on “Evidence”, “I Waited For You”, “Angelica” and a handful of Jordan originals. Soloists include Dizzy Reece, Benny Powell, Junior Cook, Charles Davis and Kiane Zawadi. Four stars in Stereophile.
1. Third Avenue (C.Jordan; arr. D.Reece)
2. Angelica (E.K.Ellington; arr. C.Davis)
3. Old Bo (C.Jordan; arr. C.Jordan) Listen to Full Song
4. I Waited For You (J.B.Gillespie; arr. J.Nealy)
5. Introduction To Evidence
6. Evidence (T.Monk; arr. D.Reece)
7. I'll Be Around (A.Wilder; arr. C.Jordan)
8. Bearcat (C.Jordan; arr. J.Priester)
9. Down Through The Years (C.Jordan; arr. D.Sickler)
10. Charlie Parker's Last Supper (C.Jordan; arr. C.Jordan) Listen to Sample
11. Don't Get Around Much Anymore (Ellington and Russell) Listen to Sample
According to the liner notes, one of Clifford Jordan's major ambitions was to lead a big band and, toward the end of his life, he was able to accomplish this. Play What You Feel contains selections recorded live in New York in December of 1990. The impressive personnel includes trumpeter Dizzy Reece, altoists John Jenkins and Charles Davis, trombonist Benny Powell, pianist Ronnie Mathews, and Junior Cook as well as Jordan on tenor. The band performs the arrangements of Jordan, Reece, Davis, and Julian Priester with considerable inspiration.
Its style seems rooted in the work of Dizzy Gillespie's 1946-50 outfits. The rich, grainy-textured ensemble sound is reminiscent of Dizzy's band playing a Tadd Dameron chart. In fact, Jordan does a cover version of I Waited for You, written by Gillespie, who recorded it with his large group in 1946.
As one might expect, Jordan solos enthusiastically, sometimes putting a raw edge on his tone to heighten the intensity of his playing. Cook, whom Jordan praises to the skies in a spoken introduction, improvises impressively. In the latter stages of his career, Cook's playing actually improved, as he exhibited more drive and a fuller, more attractive tone. -Harvey Pekar
In the early Nineties, tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan led a jazz orchestra that critics adored. But the band's one album had such dismal sound, the rest of us remained unconvinced. Now comes Play What You Feel to clear things up. Jordan's band featured the same surging power as did his rough-hewn saxophone. Hearing it in detail, you can understand the fuss. -Neil Tessar
Play What You Feel was recorded almost a year before Clifford Jordan's acclaimed Milestone big band date, Down Through The Years. Both discs were recorded at Condon's by maverick engineer Pierre Sprey; in fact, portions of the earlier performances were used as a demo to help the tenor saxophonist seal the Milestone deal. Unsurprisingly, there is a substantial overlap in the two programs; both discs feature Ellington's Don't Get Around Much Anymore, Gillespie's I Waited For You, and three durable Jordan originals: Third Avenue, Charlie Parker's Last Supper, and Down Through The Years. Additionally, the albums share key personnel, including trumpeter Dizzy Reece, saxophonist Charles Davis (who plays alto on this disc, baritone on the Milestone), and pianist Ronnie Mathews.
There are some significant differences between the two albums, both in the program and the roster. Two strong Jordan compositions are included: the bluesy Old Bo, a movement from the suite, The Life And Times Of Buddy Bolden and Julian Priester's arrangement of the smokin' minor classic, Bearcat. Also noteworthy are Jordan's chart of Alec Wilder's wistful I'll Be Around, Davis' Latin-tinged arrangement of Ellington's Angelica, and Reece's straight-up take on Monk's Evidence. While there is none of the sparring that made Two Tenor Winner (Criss Cross) a must-have for both fans of Jordan and Junior Cook, the presence of Cook on this disc is a major bonus — his solo on Evidence, slyly built on the theme of Thelonious, is a scene-stealer. Trombonist Benny Powell is also on board, handing in a particularly pungent turn on Old Bo.
Still, the highest common denominator of the two albums is Jordan himself, who is clearly inspired throughout the album, soaring over the band even in the ensemble passages. His solos alone are worth the price of the ticket; he caresses the ballads with long wisps of smoky-toned lyricism, and ignites the cookers with his fiery amalgam of blues and bop. However, albums like this underscore the fact that Jordan was not just a gifted improviser, but an insightful writer and an adept leader as well. As such, Play What You Feel is a fitting inauguration to Mapleshade's Homages series. -Bill Shoemaker
Clifford Jordan (1931-93) is gone but not forgotten, not by Mapleshade Records, for which he recorded near the end of his life, and not by lovers of hard-blowing, heartfelt modern tenor saxophone. This posthumous release revisits Jordan's last career project, his 16-piece big band, which performed regularly at the now-defunct Manhattan nightclub Condon's, where this music was cut in 1990. As befits a native of Chicago's South Side, Jordan displays his adeptness with the blues as he leads this aggregate comprising four trumpets, two trombones, four tenors, two altos, a bari and three rhythm. On hand, among others, are such estimable, but often overlooked, players as altomen John Jenkins and Charles Davis, tenor saxist Junior Cook, trumpeter Dizzy Reece, trombonist Benny Powell and pianist Ronnie Mathews. Several of the leader's best-known compositions (Bearcat, 6:15, and Charlie Parker's Last Supper, 7:00) are interspersed among tasty re-creations of Dizzy Gillespie's I Waited For You, Thelonious Monk's Evidence and Duke Ellington's Don't Get Around Much Anymore. Those who enjoyed this big band's date for Fantasy (also from Condon's) will surely appreciate this outing. -Gene Kalbacher
Bill Holman's L.A.-based orchestra is one of the most precise and far-reaching big bands around today. This is very much an "arranger's band," a vehicle for the writing of Holman, the least pretentious of the composers and arrangers who contributed scores to the Stan Kenton Orchestra in the 1950s. Brilliant Corners is an unusual project for Holman in that it features no originals, only his adaptations of pieces by Thelonious Monk, and it is essentially a program of recompositions. Holman is most successful when he takes the greatest liberties, as in the opening Straight, No Chaser, where Monk's theme is only obliquely stated after some whirling fanfares and chorales. But Holman shows great originality even when serving Monk straight up, and he locates new wrinkles in 'Round Midnight by restoring it for Bob Effords's noble-sounding bass clarinet.
The big band that tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan led for three years until his death in 1993 was a "player's band": not a vehicle for one particular writer but a rough-and-ready outfit whose charts were effective frameworks for improvisation. Recorded at Condon's in New York in 1990m Play What You Feel is a valuable document for capturing the band in full flight. Along with exceptionally strong solos by Jordan, fellow tenorist Junior Cook, and trombonist Benny Powell, what makes this a treat is the band's obvious camaraderie. -Bill Shoemaker