[Marxism] Duke Jordan

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Aug 12 10:42:40 MDT 2006


(Back in 1967 I worked for the Department of Welfare in Harlem for about 
six months. One of my "clients" was jazz drummer Jonathan Jones Jr., the 
son of Count Basie's drummer. He had just gotten out of a drug rehab 
program and was anxious to begin performing again. Since his drums were in 
hock and since the welfare department made no allowances for redeeming such 
property, even if it would lead to the gainful employment of one of their 
home relief cases, I raised the money for the drums by putting through a 
request for household funds. I did this all the time. The only welfare 
cheats, as far as I was concerned, were munitions manufacturers with tax 
breaks, etc. After he got his drums out of hock, Jonathan put together a 
trio with Les Spann on guitar and Duke Jordan on piano. Duke was driving a 
bus in Brooklyn at the time. I remember one gig in particular. The band was 
hired by what was obviously a mafia bar in Newark. I went out to hear them 
and the place was filled with gangsters in sharkskin suits and diamond 
rings on their pinkies. Jonathan explained to me that mobsters preferred 
jazz to rock-and-roll.)

NY Times, August 12, 2006
Duke Jordan, 84, Jazz Pianist Who Helped to Build Bebop, Dies
By TIM WEINER

Duke Jordan, a pianist whose work with the saxophonist Charlie Parker 
endures in the jazz canon, died on Tuesday in Valby, Denmark, a suburb of 
Copenhagen. He was 84, and he had lived in self-imposed exile from the 
United States since 1978, continuing to perform in the musical tradition he 
helped create.

His death was confirmed by Alistair Thomson, a spokesman for the United 
States Embassy in Denmark.

Mr. Jordan was regarded as one of the great early bebop pianists. The sound 
that he helped to create in the postwar era was something new in the 
American landscape, and it remains a cornerstone of jazz.

His work with Parker, recorded for the Dial and Savoy labels, soared with a 
lilting intensity. It was hard-driving and lyrical, heady and heartfelt, 
said Ira Gitler, a jazz critic who heard Mr. Jordan and Parker in 1947, at 
the Onyx Club and the Three Deuces, two long-vanished nightclubs on West 
52nd Street in Manhattan.

A handful of recordings from 1947 and 1948 featuring Parker, along with 
Miles Davis on trumpet, Mr. Jordan on piano and Max Roach on drums, are 
considered masterpieces. They include “Embraceable You,” “Crazeology,” and 
“Scrapple From the Apple.”

Mr. Jordan’s “beautifully apt introductions,” in the words of Phil Schaap, 
curator of Jazz at Lincoln Center, lasted only seconds. But they set the 
stage for three-minute explosions of creativity.

Bebop — its nonsense name often credited to the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie — 
was nothing like the orchestral jazz of the 1930’s, made for ballroom 
dancing. It was fast, furious, intricate and improvised. Musicians took the 
basic structures of the blues or standards like “I Got Rhythm” and turned 
them inside out, embellishing their chords with cascades of notes. In Mr. 
Jordan’s hands, the piano, freed from keeping metronomic time, became a 
fountain of melody and color.

In 1949 and the early 1950’s, Mr. Jordan recorded with groups led by the 
saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz and Sonny Stitt, led his own 
quartet and performed at New York nightclubs and on national radio 
broadcasts. His work in the 1950’s sometimes embraced more of a blues and 
gospel feeling but never left the fundamentals of the bebop sound.

Classically trained, he had a gift for composing and teaching, and several 
of his works, including “Jor-du” and “No Problem,” remain jazz classics, 
Mr. Schaap said. Some of his compositions are also heard on the soundtrack 
of the 1959 version of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” directed by Roger Vadim 
and starring Jeanne Moreau.

Irving Sidney Jordan was born in New York at the dawn of the era of 
recorded jazz, on April 1, 1922. Before his 21st birthday he was playing 
piano in big bands, including the Savoy Sultans, the house orchestra at the 
Savoy Ballroom, in its day the world’s most famous dance hall. Gillespie 
once called the Savoy Sultans “the swingingest band there ever was.”

In 1952 he married the jazz singer Sheila Jordan, who often said that she 
loved Charlie Parker so much that she married his piano player. Their 
interracial marriage was unusual in the 1950’s, when segregation remained 
legal, and miscegenation was a crime in some states. The marriage did not last.

Ms. Jordan became a highly regarded performer whose career continues today. 
They had a daughter, Traci, who became a music promoter. He has no other 
known survivors.

Mr. Jordan, like many of his contemporaries, developed a heroin habit, Mr. 
Gitler said. By the mid-1960’s, he was reduced to driving a taxicab in New 
York. He rehabilitated himself in the 1970’s, and began a new life as a 
leader of trios and quartets in Copenhagen, where he settled permanently in 
1978. He recorded more than 30 albums for the Danish label SteepleChase 
Records and performed in concerts and at jazz festivals worldwide.

“He never changed styles,” said Scott Yanow, a jazz historian. “He had been 
one of the very first pianists to pick up on the changes that bebop 
brought, breaking out of conventional song, which took jazz beyond dance 
music into something new.”





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