In a career that took flight in 1985 with immediate commercial and critical acclaim, guitar virtuoso Stanley Jordan has consistently displayed a chameleonic musical persona of openness, imagination, versatility, respect and maverick daring. Be it bold reinventions of classical masterpieces or soulful explorations through pop-rock hits, to blazing straight ahead jazz forays and ultramodern improvisational works—solo or with a group—Jordan can always be counted on to take listeners on breathless journeys into the unexpected.
On his latest Mack Avenue recording, Friends, Jordan takes the time-honored path of inviting a handpicked cadre of guests: guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli, Mike Stern, Russell Malone and Charlie Hunter; violinist Regina Carter; saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Ronnie Laws; trumpeter Nicholas Payton; bassists Christian McBride and Charnett Moffett; and drummer Kenwood Dennard. The results proved truly outstanding on numbers ranging from a Bela Bartok piece to a Katy Perry pop smash, a heady original blues and three jazz classics spanning swing, cool and modern. There’s a listener-friendly samba, an airy spirit song and an astounding nod to the atonal. Jordan even plays some serious piano on a couple of songs, revisiting his first instrument with newfound confidence and wonder.