Thank you to all who enjoyed the article on Ringo Starr. Here’s the 2nd drummer in this 4-part feature – Steve Jordan.
Steve Jordan is definitely one of my favourite drummers. I actually did a full-on book project on him when I was at University. I think its so important to find out about new drummers and develop an interest in those whom we enjoy listening to. It really helps us as drummers become better listeners, better players, and also helps us to play with a band more effectively. In short, we mature as musicians. So without further ado, here’s a bit about Steve, why I think his contribution to music over the past 30 years is significant, and also some wisdom in the form of comments from the man himself as well as a few groove transcriptions.
Steve Jordan was born on January 14th, 1957 in New York. After studying as a classical percussionist at the famous LaGuardia High School of Music & Art in NYC, Steve Jordan launched a legendary career in rock, collaborating with artists such as Keith Richards, Don Henley, John Mayer, The Pretenders, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Bob Dylan and Alicia Keys. As a Grammy Award-winning record producer, his inspired presence and craft have raised the standard. Steve Jordan is well known as a multi-instrumentalist, musical director, producer and a writer of exceptional quality. In addition to his late 70’s / early 80’s tenure with Saturday Night Live and Late Night with David Letterman, Steve has been one of the most in demand session drummers in the world. He has recorded and toured with such artists as The Rolling Stones, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, BB King, Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow and many more. Steve has evolved into a Grammy Award winning producer with Robert Crays’ album ‘Take Your Shoes Off’ and the nominated ‘Bring ‘Em In’ by Buddy Guy. While he has played on countless hits, from Alicia Keys ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Devils and Dust’, and he continues to produce with such works as the John Mayer Trio album ‘Try!’, the John Mayer album ‘Continuum’, John Scofield’s ‘That’s What I Say,’ ‘Possiblilties’ by Herbie Hancock, among many others. As a musical director, Steve has worked on such high profile projects as Superbowl XXXX, the Martin Scorsese/Antoine Fuqua film ‘Lightning in a Bottle’ and the Kennedy Center Honors.
Steve Jordan is one of the most influential and sought after session drummers in the world. He has accomplished more in his drumming career than he ever could have imagined. Steve isn’t known in the music industry for playing the hardest licks ever known to the human mind, or for the technical skills that would make even the late, great Buddy Rich squirm (although he has great technique and soloing ability!). What Steve Jordan is best known for is making the drums sound good in any musical situation. He can take a simple beat and make it sound great. He can take a more complicated beat and make it sound so fluid and simple. He has taken his drumming beyond technique, having studied formally, and found his own sound, making the music the best it can be on each record he appears on. He has taken his influences, from Kenny Clarke to Carlton Barrett to David Garibaldi to Steve Gadd, and formed his own unique voice, and continues to inspire countless drummers today. Steve Jordan is one of my favourite drummers ever, and has made an amazing mark on the music industry.
Some Steve quotes:
“Every building has a strong foundation. When you’re building a rhythm track, you have to provide the foundation. The drummer has to be strong and solid.”
(The Groove Is Here DVD, 2002)
“When drummers practice with time, they usually practice with a metronome. That’s fine except a key ingredient to the secret of timekeeping is overlooked. I realise that in drumming you start the note but don’t stop it. That opened me up to a whole new world for me. You need to know the full length of a quarter note.”
On the subject of groove in an interview with Modern Drummer magazine: “That’s why people play so much stuff, because they can’t play a steady beat. But when you get into playing a steady groove and you can hypnotize somebody with that beat, that’s the bomb. And it takes confidence to know you can do that and not care what anybody says. People might think you don’t play fills because you can’t, but you have to do away with all that. They’ll feel it when it’s good” (Modern Drummer October 2010).
“Simplicity is not stupidity. Just because some- thing sounds good in your mind doesn’t mean that it’s dumb.”
“WHO DID YOU THINK I WAS” by John Mayer Trio (from the record ‘Try!’)