Archive for Jordu

Bluegrass Jordu!

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on August 11, 2020 by telescoper

A couple of weeks ago when I was looking on Youtube for a recording of Jordu by Duke Jordan for a blog post I stumbled across this version, which seemed so unlikely that I had to listen to it and, somewhat to my surprise, I loved it and decided to share it. Those of you out there who like your jazz and your American country music will no doubt feel the same way.

It’s by a band led by virtuoso banjo player Bill Keith consisting of fiddles, mandolins, guitars and string bass (as well as banjo), the type of ensemble you expect for American bluegrass music so I couldn’t imagine in my mind’s ear how they would sound playing a bebop standard. As it turns out they sound great! The middle eight of this tune sounds so funky on those instruments. Hats off to Bill Keith for this adventurous choice of number!

P.S.  My Dad used to play the drums in traditional jazz bands, some of which included a banjo player. He never had a good word to say about banjo players, accusing them (rightly or wrongly) of always “speeding up” (which is anathema to jazz musicians).

Jordu

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on July 30, 2020 by telescoper

Now for one of those jazz posts that people don’t seem to like and which will no doubt reduce today’s blog traffic even further. This is a very nice version of a tune called Jordu which was written by pianist Irving “Duke” Jordan in 1953 and which became part of the standard jazz repertoire after a wonderful version was recorded by Clifford Brown and Max Roach in 1954. It’s not hard to figure out where the title comes from. The version I’ve picked is much later, and features a trio with the great Ed Thigpen on drums and Mads Vinding.

Duke Jordan began his recording career with the brilliant Dial sessions with Charlie Parker in 1947 and he carried on making great music after he moved to Denmark in the 1970s until his death in 2006. The Steeplechase label on which this record was released is actually based in Copenhagen too. He is buried in Vestre Kirkegard in Copenhagen. He was in my opinion one of the most consistently underrated pianists of his era.

When I was younger I used to try to figure out by ear the chord changes in Jazz standards. Nowadays you can find cheat sheets all over the internet, which rather takes the fun out of it. This tune is a particularly interesting challenge to unravel as well as to perform  but if I ever got a band together we would definitely (try to) play it!

Jordu is in a standard AABA form. The A sections are constructed from dominant chords in a pattern based on the ii-V-I progression which is very common in jazz. The variation introduced here is to use a major II instead of a minor ii and add a dominant 7th to the basic triad, which makes a much richer sound. The eight bars of the A section are divided into four pairs, the first of which finds the theme played without backing chords or rhythm accompaniment, the second having the backing instruments accent beats 1, 3 and 4. The first sequence is a II/V/I in C minor, using a D7 instead of a minor ii chord. Then it’s a similar sequence in in Eb major (F7/Bb7/EbMaj7). After a repeat of the first II/V/I, the A sections ends with Ab7 – G7 (bVII7 – V7). Every chord but one in the entire section is a dominant 7th.

Since the A section ends in an unresolved way on the V chord (G7), a device used quite a lot in music stylistically based in the bebop era, Duke Jordan devised  a two-bar coda to be played at the end of a performance that resolves to the tonic (Cm), bringing everything gently back to Earth to finish.

The B section is based on the Circle of Fourths, another standard jazz device but still a challenging pattern to improvise on. If you want to learn to play jazz most tutors will have you practicing a lot on the Circle of Fifths (clockwise) and Circle of Fourths (anticlockwise) trips around this diagram showing all the major and minor keys:

Anyway, you don’t have to know anything about the harmonic structure of this piece to enjoy this lovely playing. Duke Jordan’s solo finds him completely at home in this tune, and why shouldn’t he? He wrote it!