Stanley Jordan: State of Nature

By: Greg Gargiulo

Residing in a class all his own, segregated from conventional strummers of the six-stringed instrument, guitar-tapping wizard Stanley Jordan has long spoken in an exclusive, self-constructed language. Using a technique he discovered through personal exploration, Jordan taps frets individually on the actual fret board rather than picking and strumming the strings further down, allowing for additional versatility and the ability to play two guitars simultaneously. While his evocative and innovative tongue may not challenge the greats of standard string plucking, it does possess an abundance of admirable aspects not found in common play. Progressing his guitar-speak to yet another new level, State of Nature (Mack Avenue) mixes equal parts soul-quelling easy listening ("Forest Garden") with heavy, traditional blues ("Song For My Father") and a tinge of Jordan's latent rock star side ("Shadow Dance"), all of which are accentuated by a range of bewildering guitar transmissions.

Jordan's first studio album in four years, State of Nature is as much about promoting an awareness and appreciation of our external world as it is an encouraging invitation to peer within; the overall intention perhaps being that they are one and the same. Laced with cello, upright bass, sitar and various nature samples captured by Jordan, the LP goes far beyond a mere showcase of the virtuoso's skills. "All Blues," driven by a heavy upright riff, brings about images of a smoke-filled lounge circa 1957, with Jordan bedazzling the crowd as he toggles between piano and guitar, at times playing both concurrently. The uplifting closer "Steppin' Out," which contains some of the album's only lyrics, is a glorifying embrace of what the outside world has to offer, and a prompt to free your own inner nature. But the inspiration for State, the motive behind Jordan's newest release, is found in his more aptly titled tracks.

The "Ocean Breeze"/"Healing Waves" combo is enough to send you sailing down a gentle stream on a leaf designed specifically for you, dissolved in your calm and devoid of any thoughts that even border troubling. "Breeze" does so in its soulful sitar and relaxing voices, "Waves" with its emotive cello, fluctuating piano and softly crashing waters.

From moments of bodily abandonment such as these to others of sheer wonder in the man's handle of a body, neck and strings, there's plenty to savor in the latest serving from this eloquent conveyor of a guitar's clandestine capabilities.

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[Published on: 9/12/08]

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headySetList starstar Fri 9/12/2008 08:14AM
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that's too bad that he's segregated, someone should arrange a sit in.

breadloaf starstarstarstar Sun 9/14/2008 05:40AM
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Nice review, Greg. Been listenting to him for a long time- in very small doses. There is something about his technique, as unique and totally developed to the amazing degree that it is, that limits my enjoyment of his work. I tend to have more appreciation for his sheer skill than for the music itself.