The Complete Clifford Jordan Strata-East Sessions (#256)

Clifford Jordan (1931-1993) was physically a sizeable man whose musical ambitions were equally outsized, stretching well beyond his considerable saxophone proficiency and general bandstand concerns. If you ever encountered the man known simply as “Cliff” to his intimates, it made perfect sense that he came from Chicago that fabled “city of big shoulders”.

Jordan was both a sideman of distinction, and a leader with a wealth of ideas, not least of which concerned musicians’ rights to self-determination. On the tenor saxophone his sound was full-bodied, his attack assertive, his range impressive in all ranges, and his ability to address all tempos on full display.

Growing up in Chi-town also afforded Clifford Jordan what for its time was a peerless music education at famed DuSable High School under the strict tutelage of a violinist named Walter Dyett, who earned Captain status from directing an Army band. Captain Walter Dyett trained an incredible roster of musicians who went on to master the jazz art form. A partial listing of Clifford Jordan’s fellow DuSable alums includes Gene Ammons, Von Freeman, Johnny Griffin, Eddie Harris, Joseph Jarman, Pat Patrick and his classmate John Gilmore (with whom he teamed for his 1957 Blue Note Records debut shortly after moving to New York, the classic Blowing in From Chicago)… and that’s just the saxophonists! Jordan, Ammons, Freeman and Griffin are the originators of what became known as the Chicago tenor sound.

Before making his way to the jazz cauldron of New York in ’57, the Chicago scene afforded Jordan opportunities to rub shoulders with such titans as Max Roach and Sonny Stitt when they came through town. Alfred Lion must have gotten the drift, for not only did Cliff make the date with Gilmore, he also made two other leader dates for Blue Note in ’57 – Cliff Jordan (with Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, John Jenkins, Ray Bryant, Paul Chambers and Arthur Taylor) and Cliff Craft (with Art Farmer, Sonny Clark, George Tucker, and Louis Hayes).

Talk about jumping in the fire immediately! Clifford Jordan was clearly up to the task as later that same year Chambers invited him on the set for his Paul Chambers Quintet date, as did Clark for his record Quintets, both also Blue Note recordings. Obviously this was a resourceful 26-year old tenor player whose sturdy, questing approach to the music made an immediate impact on some of the music’s most vital seekers of the period.

That same year Jordan landed a steady gig with Horace Silver and found himself in the crucible of hard bop, recording Silver’s Further Explorations date in ’58. Performing alongside such stalwarts as Clark and Silver, who always stressed their original compositions, clearly influenced Clifford’s compositional ambitions, as this box set demonstrates.

He went on to take steady gigs with such other lofty contributors as J.J. Johnson, Kenny Dorham, and eventually two years with Max Roach. In ’64 Jordan joined the Charles Mingus Workshop, which at the time included Eric Dolphy, a man who made a major impression on Clifford.
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