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TV REVIEW : The Genius of Stanley Jordan

May 24, 1991|LEONARD FEATHER

G enius is a word too often tossed around in musical circles, but it has been applied rightfully to Stanley Jordan, the guitar virtuoso whose first televised concert will be aired at 7 tonight on the Bravo cable channel. "Stanley Jordan" was taped during his appearance last year at the Theatre St. Denis during the Montreal Jazz Festival. (It will be repeated at 12:30 a.m.)

A Princeton graduate, Jordan developed a revolutionary technique that enabled him to tap on the guitar strings with both hands instead of plucking and strumming. As a result, he devised harmonic concepts normally impossible on the instrument, frequently sounding like two or three guitarists.

For those who have never caught Jordan in person, the program will serve as a startling eye-and-ear opener. Beginning with "Flying Home" (not the famous Lionel Hampton swing anthem but a Jordan original), he plays unaccompanied here and on other tunes, but is sometimes aided by the nimble bassist Charnett Moffet and the drummer Tommy Campbell.

Switching between jazz and pop standards (from the Beatles and Marvin Gaye to John Coltrane), Jordan is most impressive when he plays two guitars--one, mounted on a stand, for tapping out his lightning single-note melodic lines, and the other slung around his shoulder, for chordal backup. The results are spectacular--and not as a mere gimmick but as a legitimately innovative approach.

He offers, in short, a stunning example of the power of the tap in an age too often dominated by rap.

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