Guitarist Stanley Jordan's innovative touch technique, often played in a solo setting at the beginning of his career in the mid-'80s, was a breath of fresh air. He has since been an explorer open to many styles, as heard on this collaboration with a number of different musicians. He is still very much a force as a soloist, yet not one to hog the spotlight with his formidable abilities. Jordan is joined by Kenny Garrett (on soprano sax), trumpeter Nicholas Payton, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Kenwood Dennard for his blazing post-bop anthem "Capital J." The same lineup is used for the mellow contemporary ballad "Bathed in Light" with Dennard overdubbing on keyboard; the robust solos and crisp ensemble work keep things from degrading into run-of-the-mill smooth jazz. Jordan collaborates with several different guitarists. Octogenarian Bucky Pizzarelli, a master of seven-string guitar who is equally capable playing lead and rhythm, is on hand for a gently swinging, bluesy "Lil' Darlin'," while Russell Malone joins the leader and Pizzarelli for an explosive take of "Seven Come Eleven" (a tune Pizzarelli doubtlessly played many times during his time with Benny Goodman). Mike Stern accompanies Jordan for a brisk workout of "Giant Steps," with Dennard sticking to soft brushwork. Guitarist Charlie Hunter is on hand for Jordan's funky "Walkin' the Dog" and Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl," the latter in which the leader plays piano with one hand and guitar with the other. Perhaps the most unusual track is an adaptation of the "Romantic Intermezzo" from Béla Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, with Jordan playing piano (his first instrument) accompanied by the brilliant violinist Regina Carter, demonstrating Jordan's love for a good melody regardless of the style of music. Jazz fans who have lost track of Stanley Jordan since his early solo recordings will have their ears opened by this diverse, successful meeting with his many friends.
by Ken Dryden