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This will be my final post for this year’s Jazz Appreciation Month. Next weekend is the last weekend of the month, and I will be resuming my habit of taking that as a “down” weekend for the blog. In the meantime, let me tell you once again about the late saxophonist Clifford Jordan, undoubtedly one of the most under-rated musicians in the history of jazz.

If I’ve said that before about others, and I believe I have, it only goes to show you that there have been (and still are!) a lot of wonderfully talented artists out there whose talent wasn’t fully appreciated during their lifetimes.

Not that Jordan ever lacked for work. Hardly. He appeared on over 100 albums during his lifetime, and his own discography is an impressive one. I have already written about one of his albums almost four years ago. Jordan’s 1987 release “Live At Ethel’s” was JFASN #44 on July 21, 2012.

In the interest of saving time, since I am perennially running behind, I will refer you to that earlier review for any further biographical information.

The Jordan album I want to tell you about this week is another “live” album, only this time instead of playing with a trio, we are treated to Jordan’s big band as they enthralled what must have been a standing room only crowd at Condon’s Jazz Club and Restaurant in New York City on the evening of October 7, 1971.

Clifford Jordan Big Band - "Down Through The Years: Live At Condon's, New York"

Clifford Jordan Big Band – “Down Through The Years: Live At Condon’s, New York”

The album is called The Clifford Jordan Big Band “Down Through The Years: Live At Condon’s”, and some of the personnel featured on this one are:

Clifford Jordan, tenor sax
Dizzy Reece, trumpet
Kiane Zawadi, euphonium
Brad Shigeta, trombone
Stephen Furtado, trumpet
Dean Pratt, trumpet
Don Sickler, trumpet
Charles Davis, baritone sax
Lou Orensteen, tenor sax
Jerome Richardson, alto sax
Sue Terry, alto sax
Ronnie Matthews, piano
David Williams, bass
Vernel Fournier, drums

“Down Through The Years: Live At Condon’s” opens with a Dizzy Gillespie/Gil Fuller refrain, “I Waited For You.” This is a somewhat mellow song that is served well by Matthews’ piano and the deep tone of Zawadi’s euphonium, as well as the ever-present Jordan and his tenor sax. The trumpets deliver a restrained background at times, coming in at just the right point to provide continuity and, at the ending, a sense of closure.

“I Waited For You” is followed by “Highest Mountain,” the first of five Jordan-penned songs on the disc. “Highest Mountain” has considerably more energy than the opener, said energy flowing from Jordan, who never steps out of the driver’s seat. This is all the more impressive because barely five months later, he was dead from lung cancer at age 61.

Skipping ahead we find ourselves at the title track, “Down Through The Years.” This is another one of Jordan’s originals, and, like “I Waited For You,” this one is more on the mellow side. About a minute and a half in Jordan steps aside and trumpeter Sickler takes the lead. After about a minute and a half, Sickler himself steps aside and Davis takes charge with his bari sax, followed by Matthews on the piano. No slight meant to Jordan, but the solos provide a welcome change in the “sound” of the piece.

“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” is a perennial favorite among jazz fans, and I have to admit that it has long been on my personal top 20 list. Depending on the presentation, this song has been popular as a gentle melody and as a rambunctious, “get ’em up and get ’em moving” party song. The version we are treated to here is somewhere in between, although the dial is set decidedly toward the “party” side of the dial. There are lots of standout performances here to listen for, including Matthews on the piano, Williams on the bass, and Fournier on drums.

John Neely’s “Status Quo” is up next. Despite the high energy opening with all hands on deck, I’m afraid this one suffers by comparison to the previous song. It has volume and energy and a killer bass line from Williams, but it isn’t until we are almost two minutes in that the song comes into its own and grabs you by the balls and says “I am great!” And, of course, it is. By the time “Status Quo” ends almost seven minutes later, you will have no doubt that you have just heard fifteen musicians damn near give themselves a collective heart attack, all for your edification.

It’s about time for me to wrap up this one, but first there is one more song that I feel compelled to mention. That is the final Jordan original here and the closing song of the evening, “Charlie Parker’s Last Supper.” I don’t pretend to know the context of the title, other than what seems to be an obvious reference to Leonardo da Vincie’s famous painting based on Christian mythology. I do know it’s a great song that the whole gang gave their best for and, mythology aside, I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.

Here is Clifford Jordan’s Big Band (with a slightly different lineup) performing “Charlie Parker’s Last Supper” at a different venue a few months after “Live At Condon’s” was recorded:

You know as well as I do what comes next. I wouldn’t have spent the better part of four hours on a Saturday afternoon writing about this album if I wasn’t pretty sure that you will find it to be a superb addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!

For more information about Clifford Jordan and his music, please check out JFASN #44.

Thanks for reading this.

Al Evans
Wood Village, Oregon

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