Kidd Jordan - Palm of Soul


AUM Fidelity 38

Despite the Crescent City’s deserved stature as the cradle of jazz, trends in the music there have tended toward the catholic for quite some time. Chaos and confusion post-Katrina have only contributed to the city’s conservative leanings as scrutiny of the New Orleans Jazz Festival website will quickly confirm. Kidd Jordan has made cutting against this grain of orthodoxy a mission over a career that now runs five decades deep and has included gigs with a constellation of collaborators from Ray Charles and Perry Como to Sun Ra and Alan Silva. As a musical educator and ambassador (he was knighted by the French government), he makes his fealty to freer forms of expression no secret. On the stage he’s known for shedding any physical semblance of his seventy-odd years and threatening the structural integrity of his saxophone’s ligature with volcanic upper register multiphonics that are among the most potent and precisely-deployed amongst his peers.

Accolades and admiration aside, one area of Jordan’s oeuvre that continues to suffer is his discography. It’s still scant considering how long he’s been in the game and unduly weighted toward collaborations with pianist and sometimes-saxophonist Joel Futterman. Fans have long been clamoring for a record reflecting his various activities outside that comparatively well documented orbit. Palm of Soul answers prayers by pairing Jordan with one of the most revered rhythm teams in the business, William Parker and Hamid Drake, a duo intimately familiar with his preferences and particulars. The album also upends expectations by featuring Jordan in less overtly explosive surroundings. Parker and Drake devote a large portion of the disc to what some consider their peripheral instruments: the former setting down his bull fiddle in favor of guimbri (a teardrop-shaped African lute) and various percussion and latter turning to frame drum and tablas as well as passionate chanting on the emotion-wrought “Unity Call.”

Most of the pieces carry a meditative air and Jordan calibrates his sound and horn accordingly. “Forever” opens not with a furnace blast, but a slowly smoldering ceiling-pitched tenor line flanked by gongs, brushed snare and cymbals. Burrish vibrato and rich glissandi further deepen the emotive import of the saxophonist’s improvisation. Arco harmonics weave with more pathos-saturated tenor on the lengthy “Living Peace” creating a gradually combusting Gordian braid in the closing minutes that is gloriously difficult to unravel. In-between the three cycle through a number of permutations from loping swing advanced by Parker’s strolling pizzicato and Jordan’s Coltrane-codified sheets of sound to a slightly shaky groove-rooted blues. Drake once again satisfies himself with a largely supportive role, stamping his partners interplay with just right amount of forward propulsion, but never overplaying his hand with bombast. And lest listeners think its all somber chin-stroking and lofty contemplation, “Last of the Chicken Wings” brings a bit of humor to the table in an Eastern-inflected processional of frame drum, gongs, and talking drum as a porous rhythmic vehicle for Jordan’s soul-suffused horn.

Back in the early 90s the Prestige label released a pair of reissues by Gene Ammons and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis entitled Gentle Jug and Gentle Jaws (both essential acquisitions by my lights) focusing on the balladic side of each legendary saxophonist. This disc doesn’t quite qualify as “Gentle Jordan” but it does reflect a welcome departure from his past recordings. One that will pleasantly surprise those who have pigeonholed him as one-trick fire breather as well as steadfast fans better versed in the broader diversity of his music.

~ Derek Taylor

Posted by derek on June 9, 2006 7:57 AM

"he was knighted by the French government"
I was trying out to find out exactly when (and by whom) - I suppose we're talking the Légion d'Honneur here? But what exactly? Chevalier? Ordre? Anyone know? I can't find much info online about this, either at the LdH website, Wiki, or the Eremite Kidd bio, which just talks about "knighthood".. anyone enlighten me here?

Posted by: Dan Warburton at June 9, 2006 9:44 AM

this was back in the '80's that Kidd got knighted. If memory serves me of the local press way back then, I believe it was the Chevalier/arts & letters, and was largely an acknowledgement of his work as a music educator. This gave Kidd some notice and respect in town, even among folks who ran for the exits when he played.

I'm eager to hear this disc, especially as it is one of the few/only Kidd discs to be conceived of as an 'album' as opposed to a document of a concert performance. FWIW I saw this trio play at Barbe's in Brooklyn the day after the recording session and it was a great gig - just what me and the lil' lady needed as we were still in evac/exile from our town, hanging out in NYC with friends, and still didn't know if our home was destroyed or not. At that point Kidd knew that his home was ruined and that he'd likely lost dozens of instruments (saxophones, clarinets, oboes, possibly 50 or more!). He only got out with his tenor, but he was so relieved that all his family was accounted for (son Marlon was out of contact for a few days) that he had a peaceful attitude about the whole experience.

Post-K, Kidd has only done one concert in New Orleans. In an amazingly ignorant/insulting move, the N.O. Jazz Fest did not book him at the Fest as they have done for every year prior. Derek is indeed correct that the Fest's conservativism was even more manifest than usual in this year's schedule. Kidd's answer to this was to do a trio gig with William and longtime associate Alvin Fielder at a hip little bar (King Bolden's) right across from Armstrong Park and Congo Square a week before. Ironically this turned out to be the same day that Wynton did his much-hyped "Congo Square" piece on the site! Quite a contrast...

So that's my lil' update on some of the Bags-related goings-on in my town in its new weird post-apocalypse mode...Tetuzi's coming down for a couple gigs in July...Looking forward to that.

Posted by: Rob Cambre at June 9, 2006 2:52 PM

Thanks for this, Rob. If you do dig up the actual date of the award, let me know. But if it was in the 80s that would make it the initiative of the then French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, who also gave a Legion d'Honneur to Miles Davis and "invented" the Fete de la Musique (authorised street concerts on June 21st).
So Captain Akiyama's coming down New Orleans, eh? What's this, a rematch with Donald Miller? Wish I could be there to see that.

Posted by: Dan Warburton at June 9, 2006 9:50 PM

funny you should mention Jack Lang. I picked up Victor Bockris' bio of Lou Reed at the N.O. Symphony's Book Fair last weekend, and came across Lang's name a couple days ago cuz he also bestowed knightly honor upon Sir Lou during the decade you sited...

Tetuzi comes down for a stop in Jackson, Mississippi for a solo in-store at Be-Bop Records, then an ensemble gig at WC Don's with Evan Gallagher, Bruce Golden, Bill Hunsinger, Jeb Stuart, Donald Miller, and myself. Then Donald and I are driving him over to NOLA for a tour of the devastation and an evening of solo/trio guitar action for us three at the Big Top. Needless to say I am in heightened anticipation/intimidation mode! Good to have something to look forward to during the grinding slowdown that takes place here when the summer heat becomes oppressive. Phil DeGruy's quote was that during the summer, "New Orleans has two speeds: Slow and Mildew."

Posted by: Rob Cambre at June 10, 2006 8:10 AM

This disc is my favorite of the year so far.

Posted by: damon smith at June 11, 2006 11:17 PM

After reading this review, I was really looking forward to this release. It didn't disappoint and I was sorry to look this over and see how little feedback there was of it. Well, pretty much none really. I hate to lump Kidd in with Fred Anderson but they both seemed to "emerge" as two under-recorded tenor giants ready to get their day. While Fred has many releases since, I think I know what to expect from him. I look forward to the date with Irene Schweizer to come out but I'm not expecting anything groundbreaking and I'd be hard-pressed to add more than that to my Fred collection. However, Kidd has me looking forward to more and I would be excited to hear of more studio dates lines up.

Posted by: Ted at August 1, 2006 10:58 PM

The French Ministry of Culture recognized Kidd Jordan as a Chevalier (Knight) with l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 1985. They same year both Truman Capote and Francis Ford Coppola were knighted. The recognition for Kidd was two-fold: a) for his dedicated work as a music educator with the youth of New Orleans', and b) as a performer for his mastery of the multiple styles of music (classical, trad jazz, big band, be-bop, free jazz, as well r&b, r&r, etc..). Jacques Lang, was the French Minister of Culture at the time, and ultimately it was he who signed on; yet, the parties most responsible for this nomination were Jacques Batho and Josiane Peltier. It was Ms. Peltier, an avid and well-informed supporter of native Lousiana musicians, who first exposed Kidd Jordan to the newly arrived French Cultural Attache, Jacques Batho, in 1983.

Posted by: iwasdareandcontinuetopushalongasican at October 7, 2006 8:09 PM

Thanks for this info, whoever you are!

Posted by: Dan Warburton at October 7, 2006 11:37 PM

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