Legendary guitarist brings innovative style to Chico
When he “arrived” on the jazz scene in 1985 with his breakthrough Blue Note Records album, Magic Touch, Grammy-winning electric guitarist Stanley Jordan touched down with an innovative two-handed “tapping” or “touch technique” that immediately earned him accolades and admiration in the jazz-fusion camp. With covers of the Lennon-McCartney classic “Eleanor Rigby” and Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight,” as well as a handful of his own compositions, Jordan displayed a dazzling technical mastery that he has continued to explore and refine in recorded and live performance over the past the 30 years.
Recently, Jordan’s musical journey has put him on international stages playing solo, as well as with jam bands such as the Dave Matthews Band and Phil Lesh and Friends, and with his own jazz trio. And last spring, he released a Duets album with fellow guitarist Kevin Eubanks. Tonight (Feb. 11), Jordan will perform solo in Chico at Lost on Main, and in anticipation, he answered a few questions for the CN&R.
I’ve read that you developed your signature “tapping” technique based on starting your musical training on piano. What inspired your move to guitar as your instrument of choice?
I grew up in the Bay Area in the ’60s and ’70s. In the early ’70s, my family went through some difficult times and had to sell the piano. I then took up guitar and loved it, but I still missed some of the musical possibilities of the piano. So that’s what got me experimenting with different techniques.
In recent years you’ve gotten some attention for altering your “look” to a more gender-fluid aesthetic via clothing and hairstyle. Has that change in outward appearance affected your inner connection to performing live music?
My sense of self is fluid and multifaceted, so when I make the outside match the inside I’m more comfortable in my skin. This makes the music more powerful and more real.
After playing in Chico, you’ll be jamming for three nights with Phil Lesh and Friends in Las Vegas. How do those gigs compare with your solo shows?
I really love doing the Phil and Friends shows. It’s challenging because it’s a huge songbook and the music has a lot of subtleties. Phil is serious about rehearsing and getting the show tight, but once we hit the stage there is a lot of room for creative magic.
Your repertoire spans everything from the American Songbook to jazz standards to Beatles classics—what draws you to a song?
No. 1, I have to love the song. Then, if I’m going to record or perform it, I have to feel that I’m bringing something to it that is worth hearing. That usually comes naturally from the practicing process.
Do you formulate preconceived arrangements or do the improvisational passages manifest themselves as you play?
There’s always a balance between structure and spontaneity, and that balance may vary from song to song. When I first went pro I was told I had to focus more, and for years I got flak from critics about that. But I held out and now I feel that the industry is more open to artists who don’t neatly fit into a mold.