Interview with Steve Jordan

Steve Jordan

Steve Jordan is, to some extent, part of the underwater, invisible part of the music business iceberg. One of the most gifted drummers of his time, Steve also had a very serious career as a producer and songwriter. His name has never rattled like the names of his colleagues who have become idols of modern drumming: Steve Gadd (Steve Gadd), Billy Cobham (Billy Cobham), Vinnie Colaiuta (Vinnie Colaiuta), which in no way detracts from his achievements in this area. Apparently, this is due to the fact that Jordan devotes most of his time to studio work. And his track record is further evidence of this. His drumming has been featured on records by Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart, George Benson, Chaka Khan, Tom Jones, Aretha Franklin and many, many more. other, no less famous performers, he recorded soundtracks for hundreds of films, among the latest - "Shaf" (2000), "Baby Boy" (2001), participated in such concerts as USA For Africa (with the famous song "We Are The World ), as well as in a concert in support of Nelson Mandela in Central Park in New York. In addition, the structure of American show business leaves out of the field of public visibility, in my opinion, the key figures of the producer and songwriter, and this is almost the main activity of our hero. Steve Jordan produced albums by Don Henley (ex-EAGLES), Booker T. (Booker T.), Keith Richards, Robert Cray's 1999 Grammy Award-winning Take Your Shoes Off and hundreds of others. He actively collaborates with television companies (Bob Marley TNT tribute) and theaters (SmartSounds Rainforest Alliance benefit shows at New York's Beacon Theater) as Music Director. He arranges (the Pretenders' 1986 hit "Don't Get Me Wrong"), his songs are performed by Don Henley and Keith Richards. Steve Jordan is an extremely versatile musician. In addition to pop and rock music, he plays jazz, fusion and even classical. The musician's track record includes collaborations with THE Brecker Brothers, John Scofield, David Sanborn and many others.

The following conversation took place on January 31 by telephone.


MUSIC BOX: Good afternoon, Mr. Jordan. I am very glad that I have a chance to talk with you, since I am your colleague, and after reading your biography, I found a lot in common with mine. I also received a classical education, and then began to study jazz. I also record a lot for films. And I think you and I are about the same age. By the way, how old are you?

STEVE JORDAN: I'm in my forties. Actually, it's interesting, I was just expecting a journalist.

MB: I propose to start with your childhood. When you started making music, were drums your first instrument?

SJ: I started playing while still in school, took private lessons and played in the school band, mostly marches on the snare drum. Then I got tired of all this, and I abandoned classes for a while, became interested in sports. In high school, I became interested in pop music and slowly played in local bands.

MB: What kind of music attracted you back then?

SJ: It was Motown music: Marvin Gaye, Gladis Knight, THE SUPREMES and others. And when I saw THE BEATLES, it turned my whole life upside down. I think every second musician will say the same thing.

MB: So you saw the Beatles live?

SJ: No, no, it was a TV show.

MB: And what happened next?

SJ: I was also interested in classical music, so I entered the High School of Music and Art. There I studied classical percussion instruments and went through a very serious school of playing the snare drum, but I specialized in timpani.

MB: What about xylophone, vibraphone?

SJ: Yes, I played these instruments, but it was not my forte.

MB: Steve, how and when did your professional career start?

SJ: In New York, I went to different clubs a lot, tried to show myself everywhere, to play. Gradually, people began to recognize me, invite me to work. Then I played more jazz.

MB: Which of the famous jazz performers did fate bring you together at the beginning of your career?

SJ: One of the first was Steve Grossman, then I did a Jackie McLean record, was a member of the Herbie Mann ensemble.

MB: Do you still play jazz now?

SJ: Not really, very rarely. I love this music, but unfortunately I am too busy with other things. But in the early eighties, I happened to play with Sonny Rollins. This is for life! He is a man of incredible energy. I even toured America with him.

MB: Steve, please tell us how you got into show business, how you started recording with top pop artists, composing, producing?

SJ: It all happened as if by itself. I met musicians, like-minded people, the level of my playing grew, they began to invite me, and off we go. In 1979, I recorded the Rupert Holmes single "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)", which became a big hit, and before that, in 1978, the album "Is It Still Good To Ya" by Ashford and Simpson (Ashford & Simpson), which later became an R&B classic. It has greatly advanced my career. In the same years, I started writing and producing.

MV: I must say that the institution of production is a fairly new thing for Russia. In Soviet times, there were no producers at all. Yes, and today this is a rather vague concept. Could you tell us in detail about the work of the producer. Let's simulate the situation. Let's say a person calls you and asks you to become a producer of his album. What are you doing? Please tell me everything in detail, step by step.

SJ: O.K. First of all, I have to find out: who is the artist (or group), whether it can in principle be interesting to me, if I am competent in this music. Usually the artist has a demo tape that I listen to and decide if it makes sense to do it.

MB: And what criteria are you guided by when making this or that decision?

SJ: First of all, I must like it. And since the album has to be sold afterwards, I look at the music from a commercial point of view. This is the relevance of style, performance level, distribution opportunities, the circle of potential consumers of products, etc. If the music satisfies these parameters, I start work. First of all, each song is carefully selected. It is possible that some of what was written will not be included in the future album.

MB: This is from your point of view. And if the performer does not agree with you, if he thinks that the song is good?

SJ: If a person calls me, it suggests that he trusts my taste and experience. But, in any case, this is an individual and subtle issue. I can suggest changing something. But if I am categorically against it, and the artist does not agree with me, things may get upset. This happens too.

MB: Okay, what's next?

SJ: Next we start working on the arrangement. Sometimes I completely redo what's on the demo tape, sometimes I leave everything as it is, sometimes I add something. A very important point is the length of the song. This is almost always corrected. The number of verses, the number of repetitions, the introduction, the code. Then I work with the text.

MB: Do you write the lyrics yourself?

SJ: Our own, yes. And my experience tells me what to do in certain cases. So, when all these issues are resolved, the composition of the instruments is determined, I begin the selection of performers.

MB: Stop, stop. I understand if this is a singer or a singer, but if this is a group with a stable line-up?

SJ: Doesn't matter. Completely different instrumentalists can take part in the recording if I deem it necessary, but it is not a fact that all the musicians from the main line-up will remain out of work. Everything is dictated by musical tasks. I can record the drums myself.

MB: Do you always do this?

SJ: No, not unless I feel like I can do it better than anyone else. Sometimes I record bass or guitar myself.

MB: It looks like you play everything!

SJ: No, not all of them, but I can record keyboards as well. It's easier because I know my arrangement. After the lineup of performers is selected, I start thinking about a studio and a sound engineer who could record this kind of project well. And it is also my responsibility to correctly draw up a project budget, which is important.

MB: And how is the recording itself.

SJ: I'm working on the sound. This takes a lot of time. But usually, when I select musicians, I already have specific sounds in my head that I associate with this or that musician: guitarist, keyboardist, etc. It takes a lot of time to achieve the desired drum tones.

MB: Can you elaborate on your approach to working in the studio as a drummer?

SJ: Sound comes first. I am a supporter of the old, analog recording system. It sounds more natural to me. I can dampen drums for a long time, select the right cymbals, etc. Then, during the recording, I make sure to correct the drum part, since it is impossible to foresee everything in advance, something will definitely not sound the way I would like. But the main thing is the groove, the mood. If this is not the case, everything else is meaningless.

MB: What brand of drums do you use?

SJ: I have a contract with Yamaha since the late seventies. I think these are the best drums. They are suitable for almost any music. I also love old Gretsch drums, old Ludwig.

MB: I know that you have developed your own drum model for Yamaha, the Club Jordan Cocktail Drum Set. How did you come to this?

SJ: It's an interesting story. It all started in the forties and fifties. At that time, there was a special license for clubs that wanted to function in full, that is, to have a full-fledged stage, a piano, and invite large ensembles. It was then that the concept of a cocktail drum kit appeared, since drummers did not have the opportunity to use a full drum kit. This set was a snare drum, to the stand of which a cymbal was attached, a cove bell, maybe a wood block. They played standing. And although now it's all in the past, small sets are still relevant for those who work daily in small clubs and cafes. This gave me the idea of ​​creating a new version of the cocktail drum set. And this kit has become very popular among drummers.

MB: Yes, I know. Let's talk about drum technique.

SJ: All I can say is nothing is more important than rhythm. If it exists - order, if not - no technique will save. Although I have devoted a lot of time to studying the snare drum and, thanks to my education, I can come into the studio and play a difficult part from the sheet, all the same, in the first place is the right feeling for the music. Without rhythm, she will feel bad.

MB: Which of the drummers influenced the formation of your style of playing?

SJ: First, Tony Williams. Millions of drummers around the world will tell you the same thing. I really love those who kept the rhythm for Motown. This is Clyde Stubblefield (Clyde Stubbl-field), and Zigaboo Modelist (Zigaboo Mode-liste). David Garibaldi from TOWER OF POWER is very good.

MB: Let's get back to our virtual project. We stopped at the moment when it's time to mix the music. What do you say about this?

SJ: Mixing is a very responsible moment. It is after mixing that you get the final product. Mixing requires great concentration, but, on the other hand, this cannot be done for many hours in a row, since freshness of perception is necessary for successful work.

MB: When everything is ready, do you continue to promote the record? I mean looking for a record deal.

SJ: It depends on the degree of my interest in the project. But, as a rule, I do things that are absolutely interesting to me. And this means that I become an equal co-author, a person who is no less interested in the future of the project than others. And, of course, I offer recorded music to companies with whom I have long-term contacts that may be interested in this kind of music.

MB: Steve, you were one of the founders of the famous WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS BAND (WMDB)*. Tell us more about it.

SJ: Before WMDB, I was with a blues band that featured Will Lee on bass and Hiram Bullock on guitar. Then we parted, and at that moment (1981), when I was busy with all sorts of writing for the next project, two people called me at once with one proposal. The first is the legendary saxophonist Tom Scott, who said that Letterman was looking for a band for his show, and if I would like to take part in its creation and production of the project, and then Paul Schafer, with whom I recorded as part of the Blues Brother . I agreed. Then Paul asked who I would like to see in the ensemble. I said that there was nothing to think about: Wil and Hyrum are free, plus you are on the keyboard! We started rehearsing. It was a superband! In five years of work, we played with James Brown (James Brown), Eric Clapton (Eric Clapton), Whitney Houston (Whitney Houston), Eddie VanHalen (Eddie VanHalen) and many others.

MB: And how did your song get on the ROLLING STONES album?

SJ: I worked with Keith Richards on his first album Talk Is Cheap (1988) as a member of his X-pensive Winos. We prepared a lot of material, and one of the songs ("Almost Hear You Sigh") was not included in this album (there just wasn't enough space for it). We showed it to Jagger and he put the song on the Stones' 1989 album Steel Wheels.

MB: How was it working on the record with Michael Jackson?

SJ: Michael is a great artist. Working with him is a pleasure. He knows exactly what he wants. I recorded several songs with him, but, unfortunately, none of them were included in any album. I do not know why. I thought there was one that could be a hit. But, apparently, Michael had his own opinion on this matter. Perhaps some of this material will appear in the next film or somewhere else.

MB: Steve, you were a member of Steve Gadd's band Stuff. How did it happen? Did you just fill in for Gadd when he was busy?

SJ: There were actually three drummers in the band - Gadd (main), Chris Parker (Chris Parker) and me. When Stuff went on tour, Gadd would usually play the first few shows, then Parker would come in and I would play a few shows for him, and Steve would finish the tour again. With this team, I had the opportunity to accompany Joe Cocker on his US tour. It was great.

MB: How did you feel in the company of jazz stars like the Brecker brothers, Mike Mainieri?

SJ: When Michael and Randy invited me to their band in the late seventies, I was very excited. I knew the music of the ensemble quite well, as I was always their fan and studied their records. Of course, I wanted to impress them. I tried to play more interesting "chips". Maybe something was superfluous, but, nevertheless, it was not at the expense of the groove. I will never sacrifice rhythm for some complicated tricks. Recently, I also recorded with them. And with Mike Manieri, we played together in the ARISTA ALL STARS ensemble, went to the festival in Montreux. He is an amazing musician and a very nice guy.

MB: Steve, you've worked with legendary singer John Fogerty.

SJ: John hasn't played music for a long time. After the collapse of CREEDENCE, he left this business, and in the late eighties, his already adult son, who was unaware of his father's former popularity, accidentally discovered one of the group's old records, became wildly delighted and persuaded his father to return to music. Then we met. John is one of my favorite musicians.

MB: Who would you name as your favorite bass player?

SJ: I'm a Motown music fan and my favorite bassist of all time is James Jamerson. He is a revolutionary in the field of playing the Fender Bass. Everything came from him - both Paul Jackson and Jaco Pastorius.

MB: And one more traditional question. Your plans for the future.

SJ: I continue my daily work. Preparing for the release of my production work with Patti Scalfa (Patti Scialfa) and with THE JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION, recordings with Pino Palladino (Pino Palladino) and Megan Voss (Megan Voss). There are many plans.

MB: Thanks, Steve. It remains to add that Russian musicians (especially drummers) know you, and I hope they will read this interview with pleasure. We wish you success!

The author thanks S.B.A./Gala Records, the official representative of EMI in Russia, for their help in preparing the material.