Clifford Jordan

The Complete Clifford Jordan Strata-East Sessions


By Alan Goodman

“Appropriately this box includes what from many perspectives was Clifford Jordan’s recorded masterwork, Glass Bead Games..this will certainly rekindle interest in and broaden consideration of Clifford Jordan’s overall career. ” – Willard Jenkins, liner notes

Always Requested. Finally Available!
The Clifford Jordan “Dolphy” Sessions For Strata – East

The explosion of creative freedom that characterized jazz in the late 1950s and 1960s was just one step in the process of musicians taking control and responsibility for their lives.

Promoting, owning and distributing their own product were other obvious results. Rent parties and private releases may have been a part of the music scene forever, but in the 1970s, on the heels of the “black power” movement, self-sufficiency started to look like a crusade. It contained elements of liberation.

Clubs unwelcoming to the new sound? Musicians countered by collectively hosting concerts themselves, giving birth to the loft jazz scene in Manhattan in spaces with sketchy occupancy credentials and even less substantial recognition from the state liquor authority. No phone call from The Newport Jazz Festival? Artists started their own independent festival in church halls, college campuses and local art centers.

Music was everywhere, and it couldn’t be contained. Including on discs. And that’s where Strata-East comes in, especially the recordings supervised by tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan as a tribute to Eric Dolphy.

Birth of a label.

Strata-East began as a collaboration between pianist Stanley Cowell and trumpeter Charles Tolliver, who were forced into “self-publishing” when they couldn’t find a label that would issue and market their “Music Inc.” album. Clifford Jordan liked what he heard and asked the team if they could press and release sessions he had made headlined by Pharoah Sanders, Charles Brackeen, Cecil Payne, Ed Blackwell, Wilbur Ware and himself on dates from 1968 and ’69. The session led by Ware went unreleased until 2012, and the Blackwell session makes its first appearance here.

Mosaic’s box set, “The Complete Clifford Jordan Strata-East Sessions,” bundles them all for the first time ever. It features the 6 outstanding unreleased tracks, by Ed Blackwell with a drum ensemble and a quartet featuring Don Cherry. Collectively, the sessions are a microcosm of the jazz world in the 1970s, where the power was always on and the ideas were electrifying.

Unsurprisingly, every track is an original – there’s not one standard tune in the lot.

Independence in music and in life.

At the time, the independent jazz movement was more than a search for ways to create art that was more personal, sometimes even spiritual. Musicians were testing ways to exist off the grid of the typical financial and commercial restraints that had never favored them.

Strata-East was an important part of that experiment. It left the music to the creators, giving them freedom to record whatever they wanted. The label handled distribution and promotion. It became an important outlet for musicians, established and new, to give life to what they were hearing in their hearts.

Jordan was like a super-collider of old and new: his own session includes Don Cherry, Julian Priester, Richard Davis, Wynton Kelly, Wilbur Ware and Albert Heath on one date, Kenny Dorham, Ed Blackwell, and Roy Haynes with Kelly, Ware and Davis on another.

An earlier date headlined by Cecil Payne employs Dorham, Kelly, Ware and Heath. Brackeen’s set is a reunion of Ornette Coleman’s band without Ornette, and features Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Blackwell. Ware used Cherry, Blackwell, and Jordan on his set.

When it was Blackwell’s turn to lead, the drummer chose Cherry, Luqman Lateef on tenor saxophone, and Ware for one set, and Billy Higgins, Dennis Charles, and three musicians on log drums and percussion (one of them, Jordan himself) for a second ensemble.

Pharoah Sanders’ set is a very characteristic example of the “sheets of sound” he pioneered, featuring Sonny Fortune, Howard Johnson, Lonnie Liston Smith, Sonny Sharrock, Cecil McBee, Sirone, Billy Hart, Majeed Shabazz, Chief Bey, Nat Bettis, Tony Wylie, and Leon Thomas.

A final set by Jordan recorded in 1973 produced one of the tenor saxophonist’s career masterpieces. “Glass Bead Games” was released as a double album and features two quartets: Stanley Cowell, Bill Lee, and Billy Higgins and Cedar Walton, Sam Jones and Higgins..

Across the spectrum.

Given the Strata-East concept, the music ranges all over the spectrum from the soulful groove of Cecil Payne’s set to the challenging incantations of Pharoah Sanders. Both the Blackwell set and Brackeen’s, will sound welcome to anyone who got to know them through their important association with Ornette. They are an extension of all he did to free the music while remaining true to its roots in blues, emotionalism, and driving rhythms.

Jordan’s own recordings are a delight. Having grown up in the fiercely independent jazz city of Chicago, Jordan already had a couple of dates under his belt as a leader (and frequent sideman) for Blue Note, plus discs for Riverside, Jazzland and Atlantic when he took on the mantle of nurturing these projects. Having served with such demanding leaders as Horace Silver, Max Roach and Charles Mingus, he is clearly playing with passion, agility and taste.

Strata-East went on to release more than 50 albums in its day including the popular “Winter In America” by Gil Scott-Heron, but the masters Clifford Jordan contributed were what helped propel it into becoming an actual label. To really feel the fervor of the times, they are an essential addition to any collection.


Don Cherry, tp; Julian Priester, tb; Clifford Jordan, ts; Wynton Kelly, p; Wilbur Ware, Richard Davis, b; Albert Heath, d.
TownSound Studios, Englewood, NJ, Spring 1969
Vienna Strata-East SES 1972-1
Doug’s Prelude –

Kenny Dorham, tp; Julian Priester, tb; Clifford Jordan, ts; Wynton Kelly, p; Wilbur Ware, Richard Davis, b; Roy Haynes, Ed Blackwell, d.
TownSound Studios, Englewood, NJ, Spring 1969
Ouagoudougou Strata-East SES 1972-1
872 –
Kenny Dorham, tp; Cecil Payne, bari; Wynton Kelly, p; Wilbur Ware, b; Albert Heath, d.
TownSound Studios, Englewood, NJ, December 16, 1968
Martin Luther King, Jr./I Know Love Strata-East SES 1973-4
Girl, You Got A Home -1 –
Slide Hampton -2 –
Follow Me –
Flying Fish –

-1 Kelly plays organ as well as piano
-2 Payne plays alto sax as baritone
Don Cherry, tp; Charles Brackeen, ts; Charlie Haden, b: Ed Blackwell, d.
TownSound Studios, Englewood, NJ, January 26, 1968
Rhythm X Strata-East SES 1973-6
Hour Glass –
Charles Concept –
C. B. Blues –
(D1) Don Cherry-tp; Luqman Lateef-ts; Wilbur Ware-b; Ed Blackwell-d.
TownSound Studios, Englewood, NJ, January 1968
That Moment of Glance Strata-East SES 1974-14 (never issued)
Farid –

(D2) Ed Blackwell-d, log d; Billy Higgins-d; Dennis Charles-d; Roger Blank-log d; Huss Charles-cga; Clifford Jordan, log d.
TownSound Studios, Englewood, NJ, January 1968
Drum Expose Strata-East SES 1974-14 (never issued)
The Eternal Rhythm –
In Walked Buhaina –
Shades Of General Lofty –
Sonny Fortune, fl, as: Pharoah Sanders, ts, fl, perc, vcl; Howard Johnson, tu; Lonnie Liston Smith, p; Sonny Sharrock, g; Cecil McBee, Sirone (Norris Jones), b; Billy Hart, Majeed Shabazz, d; Chief Bey, African d; Nat Bettis, Tony Wylie, perc; Leon Thomas, vcl, perc.
TownSound Studios, Englewood, NJ, January 14, 1969
Prince Of Peace Strata-East SES 1973-3
Balance –
Izipho Zam –
Don Cherry, tp; Clifford Jordan, ts; Wilbur Ware, b: Ed Blackwell, d.
TownSound Studios, Englewood, NJ, January 1968
Mod House WWI 1201CD
Mod House (incomplete alternate take) –
Symphony For JR –
Wilbur’s Red Cross –
A Real Nice Lady –
For Frazier, Felicia, Veneida & Bernard –
For Frazier, Felicia, Veneida & Bernard (alternate take) –
By Myself (Ware only) –
Wilbur Reflects (Ware talking) –

Note: Although recorded for Clifford Jordan’s Dolphy Series, this album was not released until 2012 by the Wilbur Ware Institute.
(G1) QUARTET 1: Clifford Jordan, ts; Stanley Cowell, p; Bill Lee, b; Billy Higgins, d.
Minot Sound Studio, White Plains, NY, October 29, 1973
Powerful Paul Robeson Strata-East SES-1973-7/8
Cal Massey –
John Coltrane -1 –
Eddie Harris –
Biskit –
Maimoun –
Alias Buster Henry –

-1 vocals by Clifford Jordan, Bill Lee and Billy Higgins.

(G2) QUARTET 2: Clifford Jordan, ts; Cedar Walton, p; Sam Jones, b; Billy Higgins, d.
Minot Sound Studio, White Plains, NY, October 29, 1973
The Glass Bead Games Strata-East SES-1973-7/8
Prayer To The People –
Shoulders –
Bridgework –
One For Amos –

Produced for release by Michael Cuscuna
Executive producer: Sandy Jordan
Original sessions produced by Clifford Jordan
Frontier Press executive producer Harvey Brown

Recording engineers: Orville O’Brien (A-F) and Ron Carran (G)

Remastered by Malcolm Addey at the Malcolm Addey Studio, New York City.

Design Production: InkWell, Inc.
Photographs by Martin Bough

Special thanks to Charles Tolliver, Martin Bough, Gloria Ware and Alvin Fielder for all their help in realizing this project.
Clifford Jordan – “In The World” ? 1972 Strata-East Records
Pharoah Sanders – “Izipho Zam” ? 1973 Strata-East Records
Charles Brackeen – “Rhythm X” ? 1973 Strata-East Records
Clifford Jordan – “Glass Bead Games” ? 1974 Strata-East Records
Cecil Payne – “Zodiac” ? 1976 Strata-East Records
Wilbur Ware – “Super Bass” (p) 2012 Wilbur Ware Institute Inc.

This compilation (p) 2013 Estate Of Clifford Jordan under license to Mosaic Records L.L.C.
© 2013 Mosaic Records L.L.C., 425 Fairfield Ave., Suite 421, Stamford, CT 06902. All rights reserved.
Phone: 203-327-7111/Fax 203-323-3526/ Website:

Producer’s Note:
This set of recordings which Clifford Jordan produced for Frontier Press in 1968 and ’69 has fascinated me since they were first released in the early ‘70s on Strata-East in what Clifford called the Dolphy Series.
The musicians he chose to record were an interesting generational mix from people like Cecil Payne and Kenny Dorham who came of age in the ‘40s to men like Pharoah Sanders, Charles Brackeen and Don Cherry who were cutting edge in the ‘60s.
It has long been a goal of mine to get this interesting body of work, including Clifford’s masterpiece “Glass Bead Games” which was recorded four years later, released in one place at one time.
In the late ‘70s, Clifford expressed a desire to sell these masters and enlisted my help. Nothing ever came of it but some interesting facts came to light at the time. Clifford gave me the details of two enticing, unreleased sessions led by Wilbur Ware and Ed Blackwell. One of the first sessions done was a Don Cherry quartet session with Clifford, Wilbur Ware and Ed Blackwell, but Clifford told me that Don Cherry was unhappy with the results. No trace of the tapes exists today and we assume that they were eventually scrapped.