The Chance Music Of New Orleans’ Kidd Jordan


New Orleans saxophonist Kidd Jordan said he once saw John Cage and Louis Armstrong perform on the same night.

(Photo: Eric Waters Photography)

You also listened to avant-garde composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, who came to one of your shows in Berlin.

I listen to all types of music that moves me. One night, I saw John Cage at Tulane [University] and then went downtown to see Louis Armstrong’s last show in New Orleans. Louis Armstrong broke all kinds of rules; he did some wild things when he was young—like Ornette and Trane. And Albert Ayler. I dedicated this album to Albert, because he didn’t really get his due when he was playing. Albert kept this thing going in a different direction.

It’s a very spiritual album. “Holy Ghost Suite” invokes Ayler in its very title and segues into “The Revival Suite,” which your frequent collaborator, bassist William Parker, said was about the “history and the mystery of New Orleans.”

I don’t know about that [laughs]. After the music is played, you can come up with all kinds of descriptions. But at the time, I’m hearing what’s going on inside the harmonic things. And the music really comes out of the church. When you hear the “hallelujahs,” you just gotta go. Jazz is chance music; you don’t know what’s gonna come out. You may have one thing in mind, and then you go someplace you never thought about before.

What’s the thing that keeps you going as an improviser?

Well, I don’t care what people say. And I knew when I started, I wasn’t going to get rich playing this music. I taught school and played with a lot of bands in other genres to raise my family. So, in my leisure time, why should I not do what I want to do? Even if nobody likes it, I like it. And that’s the thing. DB

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