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Kidd Jordan and Hamiet Bluiett saxophone improvisers at Music at the Mint
(Published: April 29, 2015)

New Orleans' Kidd Jordan still blowing in full swing for 80th Birthday

Music at the Mint on April 30

NEW ORLEANS - For most people, celebrating an 80th birthday would call for a rocking chair, but for the legendary Sir Edward "Kidd" Jordan the performance stage is the only place to be. Jordan who makes eighty-years-old on May 5, 2015 is still going full swing with two upcoming performances scheduled over the next two weeks; Friday, April 24 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for a 12:20 PM show at the Zatarain's / WWOZ Jazz Tent stage; and then on International Jazz Day on Thursday, April 30 for a 9:00 PM performance at the Old U.S. Mint, located at 400 Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans.

The April 26th Jazz Fest performance featured Kidd Jordan & the Improvisational Arts Quintet with Jordan on saxophone, Alvin Fielder on drums, Joel Futterman on piano, William Parker on bass, and Maynard Chatters, Jr. on the prepared piano.

For the Music at the Mint performance, Jordan teams up with Hamiet Bluiett, "the most prominent baritone saxophonist of his generation". Probably no other baritonist has played so high, with so much control; Bluiett's range travels upward into an area usually reserved for the soprano or even sopranino. His technical mastery aside, Bluiett's solo voice is unlikely to be confused with any other.

Bluiett was born in Lovejoy, Illinois just north of East St. Louis. He moved to New York in 1969 where he was a member of The Charles Mingus Quintet and the Sam Rivers large ensemble. Hamiet was a founding member of The World Saxophone Quartet, "perhaps the most celebrated saxophone ensemble in the history of jazz" cites Chris Kelsey.

Jordan and Bluiett will be accompanied by Alvin Fielder (drums), Darrell Lavigne (piano), Brian Quezerque (bass), and spoken word artist Don Paul. This special presentation is hosted by the New Orleans Arts and Cultural Host Committee, presenters of the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp. The Jazz Camp Alumni and Faculty band will open the show. Admission is $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

Kidd Jordan is acclaimed internationally as one of the true master improvisers still performing today. Indie Jazz aptly describes Kidd Jordan as a "genteel man" who is "probably the single most under-documented jazz musician of his generation, a fact that is even more remarkable when you consider that he is also one of the busiest musicians in the world." Jordan was recognized as a jazz maverick back in the 1940s intent on exploring jazz rooted music's outer reaches. In recognition of his great musical achievements, knighthood was bestowed on him by the Republic of France where he holds the title Chevalier des Artes et Lettres.

This virtuoso unselfishly shared his gift of and passion for music for more than 50 years, 36 of which he spent at Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) until he retired in 2006 as head of the jazz studies program.

The list of bands and artists Jordan has performed with reads like a 40-year Grammy program and includes such legends as Cannonball Adderley, Fred Anderson, Ornette Coleman, Ed Blackwell, Ellis Marsalis, Ray Charles, Cecil Taylor, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Archie Shepp, Aaron Neville, Sun Ra, Peter Korvald, William Parker, Alan Silva, Louis Moholo, Sunny Murray, Hamid Drake, Lena Horne, Gladys Knight, Big Maybelle, and Aretha Franklin just to name a few. A big part of Mr. Jordan's résumé is the Improvisational Arts Ensemble a group he founded in 1975 with drummer Alvin Fielder, trumpeter Clyde Kerr, Jr. and bassist London Branch. The inclusion of the late Alvin Thomas transformed the group into the Improvisational Arts Quintet.

For the past three decades or so Kidd has had a highly productive and close relationship with drummer Alvin Fielder and bassist William Parker. Kidd developed a close musical relationship with innovative pianist Joel Futterman back in the early 90's and they continue to perform and record together. Kidd's first recording was titled, "No Compromise" and that very accurately expresses his personal conviction about his music.

Mr. Jordan earned his degree in music from SUNO's sister campus Southern University and A&M College in 1955. He later earned his master's degree in music from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois where he studied under Drs. J. Roger Miller, Roger Schueler and Jean Northrup. Mr. Jordan's post-graduate summer studies lead him to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where he studied under Fred Hemke who doubled as a reed maker.

A New Orleans resident, Jordan was born in Crowley, Louisiana on May 5, 1935. It was there that he learned to play saxophone from Joseph Oger, a French-Canadian teacher. His growth as a musician later continued at Ross High School in Crowley where he encountered Southern University alums Emmett Jacobs and William Byrd. When Mr. Jordan landed in Baton Rouge from 1952 to 1955 he advanced his music studies under Southern University's band director T. Leroy Davis and woodwind teachers John Banks and Huel Perkins. At Southern he also connected with another soon-to-be musical legend, his band mate and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother and future brother-in-law the late Alvin Batiste.

"His first instrument was the C-melody saxophone followed by the alto saxophone which remains one of his favorite horns. He also plays the soprano, sopranino, baritone saxophone and clarinets. But it is the tenor saxophone that allows Kidd the range to express what he wants to express. He started playing by ear almost from the start playing licks he picked up from the recordings of Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt."

Kidd organized the first World Saxophone Quartet in 1976 that included saxophonists Hamiet Bluiett, Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake and David Murray accompanied by Alvin Fielder (drums), Elton Heron (electric bass), and London Branch (bass) at shows performed at SUNO (12/9/76) and the famed "Lu and Charlie's" (12/10/76 & 12/11/76) respectively. He has amassed a discography of over 30 recordings and has performed in jazz and music festivals around the world including Germany, Netherlands, Finland, France, and Africa, has been a featured performer with the New Orleans Philharmonic, as well as performed with various "pit bands" in support of shows that come through New Orleans. Kidd has been a regular performer at the Visions Festival in New York each spring.

After his years at Southern University, Mr. Jordan began his journey to share his knowledge of music. Mr. Jordan began his formal teaching career in 1955 at Bethune High School in Norco, Louisiana. At one time he spent time in New Orleans' historic Faubourg Tremé as an instructor at the William Houston School of Music. It was in 1972, however, that he arrived at another historic place, Pontchartain Park the home of Southern University at New Orleans; and he taught there until 2006.

Mr. Jordan's legacy is solidified by his insistence that his students' music contain one critical element---originality. And he practices what he preaches. Mr. Jordan once said, "Nowadays everybody just wants to play the same stuff that everybody else is playing. Same solos, same licks, and I can see that, because everybody wants to be accepted, but I don't care about that. The minute someone wants to pat me on the back about something is the minute I'm ready to leave. You've got to know yourself and what you're capable of doing and how you want to do it."

Mr. Jordan shared his passion for music with scores of students who attended SUNO or participated in on-campus programs. Music fans could see the fruits of his skills with his organization of the World Saxophone Quartet and other students and musicians who passed through the doors of the university. His influence is apparent through former students such as Charles Joseph, one of the founding members of the revolutionary Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Mr. Jordan's work also included founding such programs as the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp and the Heritage School of Music.

So significant has his work been that his work was documented by CBS institution 60 Minutes and he was honored with Offbeat magazine's first Lifetime Achievement Award for Music Education. In 1985 the French Ministry of Culture recognized Mr. Jordan as a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the French government's highest artistic award for his work as an educator and performer. In 2008 the Southern University at New Orleans Foundation honored Jordan during their annual BASH III and during that same year Mr. Jordan was a Lifetime Achievement Honoree at the Vision Festival XIII in New York City. In 2013, Jordan was designated a "Jazz Hero" by the Jazz Journalist Association.

Yet, Kidd was always driven to search for something different musically. Even his solos with the R&B groups were noted as "different" by his fellow musicians. He moved away from playing "tunes" in his effort to discover his own musical convictions. He has always been focused on being a musician first and mastering the technique of his horns. For Kidd, technique allows him the freedom to play the saxophone the way he wants to play it. It is the "aesthetic" or feeling of playing that drives Kidd's playing. As Kidd has said "styles are born out of people's technique." When people have enough technique then they can do some things." To this day, Kidd still practices his instruments seriously. He has been known to practice by playing musical phrases in response to bird's and other sounds of nature. For Kidd creating music is all about developing one's ear. As he says, "you have to hear what you're trying to get at." Asked to define his work, Jordan calls it "creative improvisational music." - Charles Lester Music

Jordan's teaching has touch so many in New Orleans and continues to build an everlasting legacy, his list of former students includes; Bradford Marsalis, Donald Harrison, Charles Joseph, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Leroy Adams, Calvin Johnson, Sammie "Big Sam" William, Julius Handy, Elton Herron, Carl Leblanc, Darrell Lavigne, Brian Quezergue, Kenneth Anderson, Andrew Baham, Paul Batiste, Peter Batiste, Jonathan Batiste, Curley Blanchard, Alonza Bowens, Gary Brown, Maynard Chatters, Jr., Tony Dagradi, Neal Dominque, Joe Dyson, Kurt Ford, Natasha Harris, Arthur Mitchell, Aja Mohammed, George Pack, Conan Pappas, Usie Phillips, Wesley Phillips, Khristopher Royal, Chris Severin, Vernon Severin, Troy Sawyer, Walter Smith, III, Tony Villon, Richard Moten, Louis Bibbs, Abe Compson, Wali Abbel Ra'oof, Safi Ra'oof, Gregory Agid, Courtney Bryan, and a host of others.

Although Mr. Jordan's dedication to music education can safely be described as unmatched, his dedication to his family has been immeasurable. Through the years he has been able to boast being the husband of Edvidge Chatters Jordan and the father of Edward, Jr., Kent, Christie, Paul, Stephanie, Rachel and Marlon. Four of the Jordan children, Kent, Stephanie, Rachel and Marlon, are professional musicians. Mr. Jordan even found a horse racing and training partner in his nephew Maynard Chatters, Jr.

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