Clifford Jordan ‘Four Classic Albums’ 2CD (Avid Jazz) 4/5

Chicagoan tenorist Clifford Jordan was a prolific studio musician who recorded on a plethora of labels from the late 1950s onward. He would during the 1960s be an integral part of the Max Roach band (1962-1964), of both the J.J. Johnson and Kenny Dorham formations, and most notably, a key member of the Charles Mingus Sextet, and in so doing held his own with the late, great Eric Dolphy. However, this double CD captures the early promise of his trio of Blue Note albums coupled with an early 1962 Jazzland album, ‘Bearcat’. Of the Blue Note albums, ‘Blowing in from Chicago’, is the jewel in the crown and here Jordan had joint lead billing alongside fellow tenorist, John Gilmore, then also a leading member of the Sun Ra Arkestra. The two are joined by what is essentially a Jazz Messengers reunion band comprising Horace Silver on piano, Curly Russell on bass and Art Blakey himself on drums. Two Jordan originals feature in ‘Bo Til’ and ‘Evil Eye’, while Silver contributes ‘Everywhere’. Hard blowing bop, but then Clifford Jordan was never too out and has been perceived by some jazz critics as an out-and-out disciple of Sonny Rollins. In fact, he had his own, slightly more laid back style. This writer actually prefers the more balanced line-up on ‘Cliff Craft’, with an outstanding quintet of Art Farmer on trumpet, Sonny Clark on piano, George Tucker on bass and Louis Hayes on drums. The whole of the first side is devoted to Jordan compositions, with both the opener, ‘Laconia’, and the title track standing out above the rest. Side two is divided between two be-bop tributes to Charley Parker in ‘Anthropology’ and ‘Confirmation’, while the ballad, ‘Sophisticated Lady’, reveals the gentler side to the quintet where both Clark and Farmer excel.

A pared down quartet is the sole contribution from Clifford Jordan’s tenure at Jazzland and features four Jordan originals and three standards. Fresh Sound have now re-issued their own 2-CD of the three albums on Jazzland by Jordan and that will be required listening for those who already possess the Blue Notes in one guise or another, and wish to hear Jordan paired with trumpeter Kenny Dorham. On ‘Bearcat’ Cedar Walton proves to be a most able accompanist on piano, with Teddy Smith on bass and J.C. Moses on drums. The latter would reach his prime in the 1963 Eric Dolphy band and recorded equally with the New York Contemporary Five including Archie Shepp. Among the Jordan originals, the slightly misleading waltz, ‘Dear Old Chicago’, is the pick of a fine melodic set. Arguably, the Blue Note albums are already relatively easy to locate on re-issue and what would have made a more interesting pairing would have been either a second Jazzland recording such as the 1961 ‘Starting Time’, or the 1960 ‘Spellbound’ record, or alternatively Jordan featured as sideman on the originally unissued, ‘Sonny Clark Quintets’, that later surfaced in the 1970s.

Tim Stenhouse