Album review: "Friends"
During solo concerts, guitarist Stanley Jordan seems so focused on his pianistic "touch" technique that the idea of collaboration almost seems alien to his nature.
The innovative stylist is more inclined to bounce ideas off other musicians in the studio, but even so, his new release, "Friends," is a surprisingly social affair. It features some of his favorite artists, including guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli, Charlie Hunter, Russell Malone and Mike Stern, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, trumpeter Nicholas Payton and violinist Regina Carter. The lineup allows Jordan to display his stylistic reach (from Bartok to John Coltrane to, yes, Katy Perry) in colorful settings, and although there are lulls, the most enjoyable tracks capitalize on the talent assembled.
Swing inspires two standout tracks - "Seven Come Eleven" and the Count Basie hit "Lil' Darlin'." A segue from Coltrane's "Giant Steps" to Perry's smash pop hit "I Kissed a Girl" isn't as jarring as it sounds. The former is re-energized by Stern; the latter enlivened by Hunter. And Garrett's virtuosic turn on Jordan's "Capital J" triggers a compelling opener.
A classically trained pianist, Jordan also engages in a keyboard collaboration with Carter while soulfully referencing Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra." And check out the CD jacket, or you might not realize that, at one point, Jordan plays piano and guitar simultaneously.
--Mike Joyce, Sept. 23, 2011