Legendary American jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan makes his first headline tour of Australia's east coast in August.Jordan is known for his signature mastery of a special technique on the guitar's fretboard called 'touch technique', an advanced form of two-handed tapping, instead of conventional strumming and picking.
In a Zoom interview, Jordan expanded on the technique. "Piano was my first instrument, but there was a period of a few years when I didn't have access to a piano.
"That's when I started playing guitar and I just loved it. The guitar is such a personal and expressive instrument. It's just from your physical body to the strings – a direct connection.
"But the piano allows you to do so many different things at once – the independence of the different lines and the fullness of the chords. I wanted to bring some of that to the guitar. I know some people have said it kind of resembles playing a piano, that was definitely intentional."
Jordan will perform solo in Australia. "I like the fact that for my first tour, I'm doing it as a solo tour.
"It's a good opportunity for me to really feel close to the audience and for people to hear what's truly the soul of my music.
"In life we're bombarded with so much stimuli, it's easy to lose touch with the quiet and the inner space. My solo show is a sort of celebration of that."
For solo performances, Jordan doesn't necessarily have a set list. "Even when I have a set list, I don't always follow it because I really try to be sensitive to that moment and the environment.
"For example, I might start the concert without any thought of a particular song and I'll just start playing. I feel like the audience and the energy that they bring contributes to the direction of the music.
"And then it grows and it grows! And sometimes that's a new composition, while other times I might realise 'hey, I know what song this is', and then I'll go into that song and I'll finish the song.
"But I love the idea that, not only can the performer craft the music, but also the music itself is like a partner, like another conscious entity. I can listen to the music and the music tells me where it wants to go."
Jordan took some heat from playing modern songs in a jazz idiom, from artists like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. "Nowadays, that's not such a big deal. But back then it was.
"There were a few precedents. For example, Wes Montgomery did some Beatles, and of course, John Coltrane did 'My Favorite Things', which was a more recent song at that time. But for the most part, certainly in jazz, the standard repertory was the Tin Pan Alley, and the older songs.
"I didn't really get the memo! I thought you just play popular songs and you jazz 'em up! That's why they call it jazz, you know? "When I moved to New York and I started going into the professional scene, there was pressure to do the older songs. I was like 'why do I have to just do the older songs?'.
"The songs that I grew up with actually mean more to me. I have memories of when that song came out and how people understood that song.
"One night, I had been tossing and turning a little bit 'cos it was bothering me, the kind of the flack that I was getting! I woke up and thought 'dammit! These aren't just silly pop songs. These are STANDARDS. These are my generation’s standards.' At that point for me, there was no turning back."
Since the release of his 1985 album 'Magic Touch' with Blue Note Records, Jordan has earned four Grammy Award nominations and worldwide commercial and critical acclaim. 'Magic Touch' established Jordan as among the most distinctive new voices of the electric guitar.
Stanley Jordan 2022 Tour DatesThu 4 Aug - The Gov (Adelaide)
Fri 5 Aug - The Jazz Lab (Melbourne)
Sat 6 Aug - The Jazz Lab (Melbourne)
Sun 7 Aug - Sydney Guitar Festival @ Enmore Theatre