An intimate glimpse at the Chicago tenor sax giant at the height of his earthy, blues-steeped sound. I recorded these historic duo and trio sessions during 1989 and 1990. They feature Clifford jamming with his closest musical friends, including Julian Priester, Larry Willis, Chris Anderson and Carter Jefferson. A warm mixture of instruments including trumpet, trombone, guitar and piano. Include memorable, quiet renditions of “Soul Eyes,” “Embraceable You,” “Daydream” and “Trees”. And this is Fi Magazine’s Best Sounding Jazz Disc of 1998.
1. Embraceable -Listen to Full Song
2. CJ's Riff -Listen to Sample
3. Trees -Listen to Sample
4. Jug's Groove
5. Soul Eyes
6. Five 'N Free
Finesounds: The Best Jazz Of 1998
One of the two or three best-soundind discs to come out of engineer Pierre Sprey’s Colonial mansion-turned- studio in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, and those familiar with Mapleshade’s fine sonic heritage know that means a lot. Every song on this album of ballads is lovely and eerily intimate, most of them duos or trios, Jordan’s fresh husky tone wafting through the air with spine-tingling realism. Turn out the lights late at night, and you’d swear ghosts are in the room. [If it doesn’t sound that way, you need to start reading the front part of this magazine.] -Fred Kaplan
The jazz world lost one of its great personalities when Clifford Jordan died in 1993. These informal, exceptionally intimate sessions, recorded at Mapleshade's Maryland studio between 1987 and 1991, capture Jordan's big, warm-toned tenor sax in a variety of settings ranging from sax / piano and sax / guitar duos to organ trios and four-horn jams. The album focuses mainly on slow blues and ballads, including Gershwin's “Embraceable You,” Mal Waldron's “Soul Eyes,” and a Jordan original, “Jug's Groove,” dedicated to fellow Chicago sax legend Gene Ammons.
Given that most of these tunes were called and arranged on the spot, including two freely improvised numbers, the performances here are extraordinarily well-developed. Among the talented cast joining Jordan, several of whom just happened to stop by the studio and were invited to sit in, are pianist Larry Willis, organist Mike LeDonne, guitarist Rudy Turner, trombonist Julian Priester, and saxophonist Carter Jefferson. Percussion is provided on a couple of tracks by Nasser Abadey, playing an assortment of pots and vases found around the studio. Of special note are the contributions of Kenny Reed, a little-known Baltimore-area trumpet player, and Chris Anderson, the reclusive pianist and former teacher of Herbie Hancock, who joins Jordan for a haunting take on Ellington and Strayhorn's “Daydream.” Jordan's playing throughout these sessions is a joy. His rich, bluesy sound evokes a lifetime of jazz experience, yet always remains true to his Chicago roots. This beautifully recorded album is a fitting tribute to a departed master. -Joel Roberts
The music on The Mellow Side of Clifford Jordan is rarer and more valuable than one would think from the outside packaging of the CD. Nowhere does it mention that the seven selections were previously unreleased and, despite its title, not all of the music is taken at a slow ballad tempo. These spontaneous performances, recorded by Mapleshade during Clifford Jordan's visits over a four year period, feature him in unusual settings. "Embraceable You" teams the distinctive tenor with organist Mike LeDonne and Brazilian drummer Edison Machado. "C.J.'s Riff" features a unique trio comprised of Jordan, fellow tenor Carter Jefferson and drummer Nasar Abadey who, having not brought his instrument along, plays a percussion set comprised of pots and pans. The same trio plus trombonist Julian Priester and baritonist Fred Cook (with Jordan switching to soprano) somehow sounds like a full group on "Five 'N' Free" despite the lack of piano and bass. Jordan teams up with trumpeter Kenny Reed (whom he had never played with before) and pianist Larry Willis for an emotional "Trees" and "Soul Eyes." In addition, Jordan plays duets with guitarist Ruby Turner ("Jug's Groove") and takes soprano with pianist Chris Anderson ("Daydream"). Although not completely flawless, the music is quite rewarding overall and displays the flexibility and creativity of the late great Clifford Jordan. -Scott Yanow
A quiet sweetness that never borders on the saccharin marks this disc. The outing is another successful product of the unique record company-artist relationship that brewed between Clifford Jordan and Mapleshade, a relationship whose fruit ceased with the passing of the great Chicago tenor man. Jordan, joined in largely impromptu conversations and small group-often duet-dialogues, is what this date is about. His collaborators include Julian Priester, keyboardists Larry Willis, Chris Anderson and Mike LeDonne, and drummer Edson Machado.
"Trees" is a delicate lattice work of Jordan's rarely heard soprano sax and the full trumpet tones of D.C. area artist Kenny Reed (where's this cat been?) and Willis' sympathetic piano undergirding. Jordan's original "Jug's Groove" finds him conversing with guitarist Rudy Turner, while Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes" is thoroughly examined by Jordan, Reed and Willis, clocking in at 16:30. With tempos never exceeding medium-well, this is a unique addition to the distinguished Clifford Jordan discography. -Willard Jenkins