Personalities | Stanley Jordan | The Two-Handed Tapper | Guitar Heroes
Jazz and fusion guitarist Stanley Jordan (b. 1959) caught listeners’ attention with his touch technique, an advanced form of two-handed tapping, for playing guitar. By quickly tapping (or ‘hammering’) his finger down behind the appropriate fret with varying force, Jordan produced a unique legato sound not usually associated with tapping.
Jordan was born in Chicago, Illinois. He received a degree in music from Princeton University in 1981. He was a classically trained pianist before playing guitar, and his desire for piano-like voicing of chords on guitar led to the tapping technique. He was the first artist to be signed by the reborn Blue Note Records in 1985. Jordan’s Magic Touch (1985) was the first new release of the label. Smooth-jazz radio embraced his versions of ‘The Lady In My Life’ (first recorded by Michael Jackson) and the Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’, helping Magic Touch top Billboard’s jazz chart for a stunning 51 weeks. The album went gold, a rare achievement for an instrumental CD.
On subsequent albums Jordan tried to stretch out as his label sought more radio-friendly material. On Blue Note he was marketed as a smooth-jazz hero, confining Jordan to an increasingly restrictive radio format. Subsequent albums included a solo-guitar project titled Standards Volume 1 (1986), on which Jordan rightfully assigned the category to pop songs by Stevie Wonder and Simon & Garfunkel as well as standards by Henry Mancini (‘Moon River’) and Hoagy Carmichael (‘Georgia On My Mind’). He followed that with the band album Flying Home (1988) and Cornucopia (1990), which mixed jazz recorded live with studio originals. After moving to Arista Records in 1994, he recorded Bolero, which featured a 17-minute arrangement of Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ broken up into multiple stylistic sections.
Jordan’s main guitar at the time was built by Vigier Guitars in 1982. Vigier modified one of its models with a flat fingerboard, creating a very low action that facilitated the tapping technique.
Jordan left the mainstream record business and took up residence in Sedona, Arizona, where he owns a book and music store and studies music therapy. He continues to tour.
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