Starting Time: CILFFORD JORDAN
Kenny Dorham (tp) Clifford Jordan (ts) Cedar Walton (p) Wibur Ware (b) Albert Heath (drs)
Recorded New York; June 14 & 15, 1961
Sunrise in Mexico (5:58) (Kenny Dorham)
Extempore (5:15) (Clifford Jordan)
Down Through the Years (4:45) (Clifford Jordan)
Quittin’ Time (4:40) (Clifford Jordan)
One Flight Down (4:43) (Cedar Walton)
Windmill (3:52) (Kenny Dorham)
Don’t You Know I Care (4:55) (Mack-Ellington)
Mosaic (4:56) (Cedar Walton)
It has become fairly common practice to name a jazz album after one of the tunes it contains. Sometimes the title is very apt; other times it is irrelevant. In a distinct departure from this usual procedure, the title “Starting Time” is not taken from any of the song titles on this set. As a matter of fact, it turns out to be in direct opposition to the name of one of the numbers: Quittin’ Time.
“Starting Time” does not intend to imply that this is CLIFFORD JORDAN’s first album as a leader. He has been heard on Riverside in his own “Spellbound” (RLP 340) and on Jazzland, together with Sonny Red, on “A Story Tale” (JLP 40). Nevertheless, the album title does seem to fit, because it is about time that Jordan really began to get proper recognition – and this album could be the one to do the job for him. Clifford had performed more than creditably with Max Roach, Horace Silver and J. J. Johnson. His Spellbound album received four stars from Down Beat. However, an accumulation of such things in the public’s collective mind usually needs a final nudge to firmly establish a player.
From our first hearing of Jordan, when he migrated to New York from Chicago in 1957, it was clear that he was a thinker and lyricist rather than a saxophonist who ran off at the mouthpiece. In his further maturity, this is more pronounced, whether in the tender, nostalgic Down Through the Years or the swiftly turning Windmill. Clifford has virile swing in abundance but he is never harsh.
One of the reasons for the close-knit, warm feeling that is achieved here – even though this is not a permanent group – is that Jordan was able to recruit for this recording date a lineup entirely made up of past and present colleagues.
Wilbur Ware was playing drums when Clifford met him in 1951, but was on bass when they first played together in 1955. He is Jordan’s favorite bassist. The association with Kenny Dorham goes back to 1957 when they were together in Max Roach’s group. During the summer of 1961, they appeared as the front line in Dorham’s group at the Jazz Gallery in New York and the Town Hill in Los Angeles.
Cedar Walton and Tootie Heath were Jordan’s group-mates in J. J. Johnson’s quintet. With Ware, they form a thoughtful, dynamic rhythm section. A rhythm section that thinks as well as swings is important to Jordan. As he puts it: “I am influenced by what the rhythm section is playing.”
A unique feature of this album is that the selections appear in the exact order they were recorded. As a writer, Jordan is represented by three numbers; Dorham and Walton each have two; the one standard is a seldom-played Duke Ellington tune.
Jordan’s Extempore (named by his wife) is a minor-key blues. Cliff’s solo shows off his fine time. Dorham has a typically clean-lined solo that sounds like his trumpet is walking and running on two sure, agile legs. Wilbur exhibits his wares in solo and Walton has a short bit. Some very expressive unison playing by the two horns marks the presentation of the wistful Down Through the Years, also written by the leader. Clifford is especially moving in his misty solo; Kenny and Cedar almost as poignant. Notice the sensitive accompaniment by Heath and Ware. The notes Wilbur chooses are particularly helpful. Quittin’ Time, the third of Jordan’s lines, is an optimistic swinger where the three main soloists again shine and Heath has an effective short solo.
Walton’s One Flight Down is a blues that Cedar used to do as a trio number when he was part of The Jazztet. Appropriately, he has the first solo, after the horns state the funky theme. Dorham’s staccato swing and Jordan’s muscular drive follow in solo order. The Eastern Mosaic, also by Walton, is currently in the book of his present affiliate, Art Blakey’s Messengers. The minor chord changes are conducive to poetic playing and the rhythmic variations effected by Ware and Heath greatly aid the interest of the solos.
The opener, Sunrise in Mexico, Dorham’s forst offering, is a piece of minor-key exotica with a North American Indian flavor that settles into a solid medium groove for the solos by Jordan and Walton. Windmill, the second of Dorham’s tunes, rotates at a high rate of speed and would have been too much for Don Quixote. Both were played often in the 1961 partnership of Jordan and Dorha,.
Ellington’s ballad, Don’t You Know I Care?, originally sung by Al Hibbler, is mainly the property of Jordan here, with Walton coming in for a half-chorus. Clifford shows that singing is not restricted to the human voice.
Several things are evident in this set. Tootie Heath reveals himself as one of the tastiest swingers; Wilbur Ware reaffirms his status as a bass master; Cedar Walton demonstrates that he is a pianist to be reckoned with; Kenny Dorham shows how a completely mature musician has everything “together”; and Clifford Jordan, without succumbing to any faddism, plays a straight-ahead, forceful, beautiful tenor saxophone in the continuing line of jazz tradition. It’s time to start listening.
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded and mastered at Plaza Sound Studios
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO (Walton) and LAWRENCE SHUSTAK (Jordan, Dorham)
Jordan is also co-featured on Jazzland on –
A Story Tale: Clifford Jordan and Sonny Red; with Tommy Flanagan, Elvin Jones (JLP 40; Stereo 940S)
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York