Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Music notes--State of Nature

Stanley Jordan has always defied categorization. He’s always been a jazz guitarist, but has covered rock tunes with aplomb. He has appealed to listeners in both genres, not only because of his keen and unique approach to playing, but simply because the tunes are fun to listen to.

State of Nature is Jordan’s first project in over ten years. What has he been doing in the meantime? Well, among other things, he has been studying music therapy. But don’t let that throw you. State of Nature is not a collection of new age tunes designed to make you feel good about yourself or become at one with the universe. On the other hand, if you can’t feel good listening to this, then perhaps you need therapy.

The project is mixed between Jordan’s original tunes and his renditions of classic pieces by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Horace Silver, Miles Davis, and even Mozart. All of these covers are handled well, and though from divergent traditions (even within jazz), they sound good together on this disc. I do think the Mozart piece would have been a better choice to close the album than Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out.” I’m particularly fond of “Song for My Father” and “All Blues.”

“A Place in Space” opens the disc with a nice groove. Other originals worth noting are “Forest Garden,” “Ocean Breeze,” “Healing Waves” and “Shadow Dance.” The latter song is one of those tunes Jordan does very well: starting off pensive and slow and building to furious crescendo, much like his signature cover of “Stairway to Heaven.” Songs like “Healing Waves” and Forest Garden” might be a little mellow for some tastes, especially with the inclusion of environmental sounds, but I found them to be well played testaments to what Jordan has immersed himself in as fans have waited for new material.

The album also features Jordan on piano. One should not expect the same prowess he displays on the guitar, but he does accompany himself quite well here.

State of Nature is first class jazz, though it does stretch the boundaries a bit. Was it worth a ten year wait? I can’t say. But it seems Jordan’s hiatus has resulted in not only enjoyable, but thoughtful music. I can’t complain about that.

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