I go to a lot of shows and events, but this one had a LOT of special meaning, as Stanley Jordan is a true guitar god and very inspirational person.
As a teenager in the mid-80s, my best friend’s parents had a compact disc player several years before most people in the U.S. started buying them.
With CDs being a relatively new technology, there wasn’t a great deal of CDs out at the time — they usually came in long cardboard boxes and they were expensive. Luckily, one of the few CDs in their collection happened to be Stanley Jordan‘s “Magic Touch” and it was quite thrilling to hear incredible new music on a great sounding new format. His unique style of guitar playing and incredible version of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” made him an instant guitar hero.
He was also featured playing some incredible solo guitar (WSJ footage) in a scene from a movie from 1987 called “Blind Date” with Bruce Willis and Kim Basinger. That also made him a pretty well known person to people that may not have otherwise not heard him play.
I ended up buying his Blue Note recordings on cassette tape before owning a CD player myself. I went back and bought his discs (and still have cassette and VHS tapes of Stanley’s albums and performances boxed up around here somewhere). All of his recordings are fantastic and his interpretations of songs, standards and classics really are something quite special.
Stanley is also an incredible live performer. I caught him on tour with Larry Carlton a few times at the Greek Theatre, the now-closed Universal Amphitheatre and also at the JVC Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl show.
At the Grammy Museum, there has been a Blue Note Records exhibit on display for a while. One of the display cases has Stanley’s Casio guitar and Magic Touch album. It was so exciting to see and even more so when it was announced he’d be doing a Great Guitars event.
Interviewed by Scott Goldman, the VP of The Grammy Museum, Stanley’s Great Guitars program at the Clive Davis Theater discussed Stanley’s musical journey, the 30th anniversary of him signing with Blue Note Records as well as the label’s 75th anniversary. Stanley came out with his guitar and sat down with Scott to discuss his musical beginnings, stories of his development as a musician and “technologist” in the music world and many other fascinating topics from a truly brilliant man. His explanation of his piano-like approach to playing the guitar and how he developed his style was great to hear about firsthand.
Even though the beginning was an interview/ Q&A format, at the request of an audience member he played a bit of his version of “Stairway to Heaven”.
He was also joined by longtime drummer and friend Kenwood Dennard for conversation and a little jam with a washboard and a mouth harp.
One of the highlights was when he was joined onstage by his 12 year old student – piano prodigy and composer Jahan Raymond. Stanley called out some patterns to him and they played along together. It was remarkable. They also performed a piece written by Jahan called “Running With The Wolves.”
Not only was his discussion about his career, the people he’s performed with and other cool stories, there were some lessons that went beyond music at the event. music therapy interests, and teaching activities. He discussed his work in music therapy and really stressed the importance of “progressive exercise” and stressed that it should be the biggest takeaway of his entire presentation. Definitely check out the Grammy Museum archive when it becomes available.
Here’s a similar, recent WSJ feature on Stanley (which is funny, because I went to a thrash metal concert at The Whisky at the conclusion of this event):
Check out the video screen behind Stanley – that’s Laurence Juber and he’s next up in the Great Guitars series!