In a career that took flight in 1985 with commercial and critical acclaim, guitar virtuoso Stanley Jordan has consistently displayed a chameleonic musical persona of openness, imagination, versatility 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.
His mastery of a special technique on the guitar’s fretboard was key to Jordan’s fast-track acclaim. Instead of conventional strumming and picking, Jordan's innovative "touch technique" is an advanced form of two-handed tapping. While a handful of other players were using similar techniques, Stanley’s fluid, multi-layered textures and sheer virtuosity raised the bar for excellence. But his technique, though impressive, is always a means to a musical end. His music is imbued with a warmth and sensitivity that has captured the imagination of listeners worldwide. A classically trained pianist before playing guitar, Jordan wanted greater freedom in voicing chords on his guitar, so he applied piano principles to do so. Jordan's touch technique allows the guitarist to play melody and chords simultaneously with an unprecedented level of independence. It also allows Jordan to play simultaneously on two different guitars, or even on guitar and piano. He says that “I think of it as a single instrument, but one with a wide range of tonal colors—that’s why I do it.”
To date Jordan has performed in over 60 countries on 6 continents. He has performed at many festivals, including the Kool Jazz Festival, the Concord Jazz Festival, and the Montreaux International Jazz Festival. During the 1980s he collaborated with a diverse array of artists, including performances with Art Blakey and Richie Cole and recordings with Stanley Clarke and Kenny Rogers. The track with Rogers, "Morning Desire", became America's #1 country song in 1986. Later Jordan became a frequent guest with Les Paul during Paul's legendary Monday nights at Iridium in New York. Today Jordan performs frequently as a soloist and with his band, as well as collaborating with other guitarists such as Kevin Eubanks, Sharon Isbin and Muriel Anderson. He's also a frequent guest with jam bands such as the Dave Matthews Band, the String Cheese Incident, Phil Lesh, Moe and Umphrey's McGee.
Jordan has received four Grammy nominations. His most recent album "Friends" was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Los Angeles Times jazz critic Leonard Feather wrote, “Genius is a word often tossed around in musical circles, but it has been rightfully applied to Stanley Jordan.”
Stanley Jordan was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He began his music career at age six studying piano, then shifting his focus to guitar at age eleven. He then began playing in rock and soul bands. In 1976, while still in high school, Jordan performed with Quincy Jones and tied for first place as a soloist at the Reno International Jazz Festival. In 1981 he earned a BA in music from Princeton University, where he studied theory and composition with composer Milton Babbitt and computer music with composer Paul Lansky. While still at Princeton, Jordan performed with Benny Carter and Dizzy Gillespie.
Jordan came to prominence with the release of his 1985 album Magic Touch, a revolutionary project that placed him at the forefront of re-launching legendary Blue Note Records into a contemporary entity in jazz and beyond, as also established the then-twenty-something Jordan as among the most distinctive and refreshing new voices of the electric guitar. Jordan had begun applying his unique technique to his already exemplary traditional playing ten years prior to the Magic Touch album. Though Jordan showcased the technique in a variety of musical styles from swing to rock, it was smooth jazz radio support for his singular versions of “The Lady in My Life” (first recorded by Michael Jackson) and the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” that sent Magic Touch to the top of Billboard’s jazz chart for a stunning and record-breaking 51 weeks. The album became a gold-seller (over 500,000 sold in the U.S. alone) - outstanding for any jazz or instrumental CD.
Stanley is committed to music as an artistic, spiritual, and even health-promoting endeavor. He has been immersed for more than a decade in music therapy, towards which he is now working for a master’s degree at Arizona State University. His involvement with music therapy leads him to do outreach in schools, hospitals and other venues wherever he tours. He is an artist-spokesperson for the American Music Therapy Association, and he has done numerous lectures and demonstrations on the healing applications of music.