New Orleans Diary X: The Family that Plays Together…

One of the best illustrations of the family music tradition that enriches New Orleans’ culture arrived on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon recently.  The University of New Orleans, another institutional victim of the failure of the federal levees in August ’05, played host to a free program dubbed "Jazz meets Classical" by the Music Alive Ensemble in its comfortable recital hall on May 25.


The Jordans, including patriarch and free jazz saxophone titan Edward "Kidd" Jordan (who is being honored for Lifetime Achievement in New York at the cutting edge Vision Festival June 10-15 –,  flutist Kent Jordan, vocalist Stephanie Jordan, violinist Rachel Jordan, and trumpeter Marlon Jordan are well-chronicled recording and touring artists and educators.  Their extended family, via the Chatters sisters including Kidd’s spouse and the late clarinetist and master educator Alvin Batiste’s poet-wife Edith, is one of New Orleans richest music clans, which on this particular afternoon also included cousin and music educator Jonathan Bloom, son of another Chatters sister, on percussion.


The program was produced largely by Rachel Jordan, a wonderfully expressive violinist who is a professor of music at Jackson State University, has taught at several New Orleans universities and is a member of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.  The afternoon opened with six very nuanced selections performed by Rachel’s string quartet, a sparkling repertoire that included Ravel, Bartok, Philip Glass, and Astor Piazzolla.  To close the first half the strings were joined by Kidd, Bloom, pianist Mike Esneault, bassist Peter Harris, 

and Kidd’s longtime cohort, the exceptional boundary-defying drummer Alvin Fielder for a rousing essay of John Coltrane’s prayerful "Acknowledgement," which inspired the tenorist’s keening upper register exaltations.


The second half of the program, which opened with Earl King’s Mardi Gras Indian anthem "Big Chief" with Kent on piccolo and brother Marlon’s trumpet swagger (why isn’t someone recording these two — both at the top of their game?)  was largely the jazz portion, though some beautiful cross-pollination occurred between jazz ensemble and  string quartet, partcularly when the elegant Stephanie, heir to Nancy Wilson, eased onstage for a lovely jazz-laden arrangement of Dvorak’s "Going Home."  The closing set also included Kent’s lovely rendition of "My Favorite Things."


You can hear Marlon, Stephanie, and Rachel Jordan to great effect on their lustrous record You Don’t Know What Love Is (Lousiana Red Hot Records, produced by the exquisitely talented Rachel.

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