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The Jordan Family

Spa Little Theatre
Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Saratoga Springs, NY
May 29th, 2007

by J Hunter

The Jordan Family is one of New Orleans' major dynasties, stretching from saxophone legend Kidd - composer of the ultimate Bourbon Street parade song, “Kidd Jordan's Second Line” - to the current crop of phenomenally talented musicians: Former trumpet prodigy Marlon, flute virtuoso Kent, classically-trained violinist Rachel, and riveting vocalist Stephanie. Combine that talent with a family vibe that alternates between respectful and playful, and it's a dead heat who had the better time at Spa Little Theatre - the band or the audience.

From the first notes of McCoy Tyner's “Fly with the Wind”, the Jordans showed they may have been here to have fun, but they weren't here to take prisoners. Marlon's trumpet made the intimate hall ring with solos that were straight, true, and oft-times raucous. Watching him bop as he watched his siblings play, you saw the pleasure of a man with the best seat in the house. Kent's flute was on a wireless mic, which allowed him to walk the stage as he laid down lines reminiscent of Hubert Laws and Herbie Mann; nominally the group's front man, Kent handled most of the stage announcements and constantly conversed with the siblings' backing trio.

Stephanie came onstage at the end of the opening number, her smile as bright as her white halter-top gown. “How you doing,” she asked the crowd. “After that, I feel great,” she added as the group jumped into Stephanie's high-energy composition “The Great City.” Kent switched to piccolo, but what he played was as far from “Yankee Doodle Dandy” as you could get; imagine a flute solo focused to the burning intensity of a laser beam. He stayed with the miniscule instrument for most of the concert, including a rousing cover of “Caravan” that had Marlon and Kent jacking the Ellington tune's intensity with each chorus.

Stephanie has been compared favorably to Diana Krall. With all respect to Elvis Costello's talented bride, Stephanie has an authenticity I just don't get from Krall. The pain on her face during “You Don't Know What Love Is” made you sad for the experience behind it. Shirley Horn may have popularized “Here's To Life”, but the Jordans' stirring cover at the Higher Ground Relief Benefit will be talked about for years. The version here was absolutely stunning, with Stephanie epitomizing the spirit of someone who has faced disaster, but refuses to let it win. Kent proved that the summer is the best time for a bossa when he returned to the flute for Stephanie's sultry take on “Girl from Ipanema.”

By her own admission, Rachel's role in this group is still evolving; for personal reasons, she was unable to join the band until just before the start of the tour, so she didn't have any solo spots on this evening. Nonetheless, the producer/educator's contributions were a big part of the set's flavor, particularly her support lines on Charlie Parker's “Au Privave” (where she had fun making fun of Kent's French pronunciation )and on the closer “Stormy Monday.” Resplendent in a purple silk dress, Rachel brought a unique third voice to the front line, with her violin giving the full-band tunes a terrific overall harmonic. It made me want to see the end of the tour, just to see how her avowed affinity for the blues is incorporated into the mix

I've always loved the Spa Little Theatre as a performance space, and I applaud SPAC for expanding its role as a second venue. For obvious reasons, SPAC has been limited to booking performers that can fill the amphitheatre and populate the lawn; the Little Theatre gives SPAC a chance to bring in acts that thrive in intimate settings where an artist can make a real connection. The Jordan Family was an outstanding choice for this “pre-season” set of shows, and if they ever return, follow Kent's advice to the Little Theatre crowd: “Tell two friends, then have them tell two friends, then have them tell two friends…”

J HUNTER is a former announcer/producer for radio stations in the Capital Region and the Bay Area, including KSJS/San Jose (where he was Assistant Music Director/Jazz programming), Q104 WQBK/Albany, and WSSV/Saratoga. He has also written music and theatre reviews for the Glens Falls Chronicle. He currently resides in Clifton Park.