Clifford Jordan: The Adventurer (1978) Muse

Selection: The Adventurer (C.Jordan)

.  .  .


Clifford Jordan, tenor, alto saxophone, flute; Tommy Flanagan, piano; Bill Lee, bass; Grady Tate, drums. Recorded at CI Recording, NYC, February 9, 1978, engineer Elvin Campbell.

Clifford Jordan maintained a steady artistic path, performing and recording true to his jazz calling, without following trend and fashion into other genres of rock pop fusion funk. Asked of his future in jazz, he said he wanted to continue playing until retirement, then dig his garden. He died in 1993 in New York City, age 62, the gardening aspiration probably unrealised, but made a lot of good music along the way..


AllMusic verdict on The Adventurer  “Four Stars. Steady, with consistently interesting and gripping solos”

Clifford Jordan’s early albums, which  include three Blue Note titles, exemplify his Chicago tenor provenance: big bluesy sound with a distinctive vibrato, hard swinging and straight-ahead. Jordan’s Strata East sessions in the early ’70s – In The World (1972) and Glass Bead Games (1974) –  have his flair for composition coming to the fore, with inventive melodic structures, in a darker mood.The Adventurer continues this development, with strong adventurous compositions, as well as an interesting take on Bird’s Quasimodo.

Jordan is  supported by a well-seasoned team: master pianist Tommy Flanagan, Strata East band-mate bassist Bill Lee, and the prodigious musical Transformer on drums, Grady Tate . And they all sound strong. Later that year Flanagan would suffer a heart attack, prompting him to leave Ella Fitzgerald’s trio after a decade as her musical director, though he went on to recover. A line I read recently came to mind. The music of jazz lives for ever, it is a shame the musicians don’t.

Vinyl: Muse 5163

Having been immersed so long in 1956-1966 vintage jazz, I’m still finding my way in the the 1970s vinyl jazz scene. There are some very good-sounding recordings, but many more increasingly not so good. When a recording sounds good, there is an opportunity to pick out signposts to quality, and learn something that can help you find more.

The recording engineer here was Elvin Campbell, a name which sounds familar but maybe for the wrong reason. Elvin…Jones? Pay more attention LJC! Campbell’s discography reveals a solid acoustic jazz recording history, including most of Joe Henderson’s ’70s Milestone albums, and, a large swathe of later ’70s Steeplechase albums, I guess he often popped out for a Danish.

Van Gelder was the pioneer and master engineer of the  two earlier decades, of course there were others, but a lot of jazz recording in the  ’70s seemed to have moved beyond Englewood Cliffs.  To meet the growing demand from record labels in search of hits, towards the end of the ’60s, there was a major expansion in studio capacity. Possibly a lot of engineers were catching up with the head start enjoyed by the master. At this point, you move on, or dive deeper.

Dive, Alexa, to 1960s recording studios please

“LJC, is there anything you need to know about eight tr…”Shut up, Alexa.

This Clifford Jordan album was recorded by Elvin Campbell at C-I Recording Studios, New York, The studio name didn’t register anything with me. Billboard to the rescue, again:

Bingo! Engineers Campbell and Irving took over the enlarged 57th St. Mercury Studios, and Orrin Keepnews, founder of Riverside and Milestone,  brought in more jazz recording clients. “Alexa, add C-I Recording to the ’70s studio list.

Shan’t!” (Alexa switches to sulk mode)

Scouring the run-out reveals initials “PRC” etched close to the grooves, which is the mark of PRC Recording Company (previously Richmond Record Company) Richmond, Indiana, whose services included vinyl plating, pressing and label printing. There is also a mysterious etching, M (space) CR, and a cursive name, “Sue”.

Sue Who?

No Alexa, shut it, or I’ll set Cortana on you.

Collector’s Corner

Seems to be the only other edition of Clifford Jordan’s The Adventurer is this CD, with shonky alternative artwork. Lot of chatter on Organissimo makes mention of the  “32 Jazz” label. Muse was sold in 1996 to 32 Jazz, a label formed in 1995 by Atlantic Records producer Joel Dorn, who repackaged and reissued a large number of Muse recordings on The Evil Silver Disc.

One of the more interesting digressions in this Organissimo thread on Clifford Jordan was whether the cover art of The Adventurer was actually Jordan pictured  crossing the street. One poster (Chuck Nessa, of all people!) chimed in straight away

“The original Muse cover (one of their best) is a photo of an anonymous “dandy” crossing a street (not Clifford). This shot is obviously from an upper story or rooftop, with a telephoto lens”

This claim unleashed my vinyl detective. I thought I’d check it out myself.  A lot  of Jordan’s more recent photos show him with a variety of beards,  which hide more of his face, including one illustrating the liner notes. I looked instead for a picture of Jordan taken at a similar angle, no beard, but sporting a moustache.

 Without hunting the net with facial recognition software, which is how actual intelligence analysts do it, this was the best match I could find. The Starting Time Jazzland album, recorded 1961, Jordan at age 30. The Adventurer was recorded 1978. Add 17 years, a little more drawn and gaunt? Or perhaps taken some years previously? Or perhaps it’s someone else.


You decide, but I’ll throw in a couple of other angles. If it’s not Jordan, he sure looks like him. What are the odds of a stranger picked out at random, being such a close look-a-like?

The Adventurer photo is credited  to Clarence Eastmond.  Eastmond has 25 cover credits (in Discogs), mostly Muse jazz album covers between 1971 and 1983. So, a long-time house photographer, a professional, which is someone who works to a brief.  None of his credited covers include use of a “street candid” photo, it’s not his style, and there are legal issues about commercial use of candids a professional would know of.

Jordan has an extensive discography, and a great many of his album covers include a picture of himself. Mingus had the same outlook – I am my music. How likely is it that Jordan, at this point in time, for his latest album, would use a cover picture of a total stranger?

All of which  takes us back to the question: is it Jordan? I endorse Occam’s Razor, the principle that the simplest explanation is the most likely –  that it is Jordan. Not that it matters, I suppose.

More Clifford Jordan music coming up soon. Taking a cue from Organissimo, which is a good place for ideas and recommendations, any other Jordan favourites out there?


12 thoughts on “Clifford Jordan: The Adventurer (1978) Muse

  1. I got my white label promo copy mid Oct 2019, run-outs read the same, so is the beard and the vase. B&W, respectively. Can not tell the dynasty of neither but I love the cover pic. The music and recording also sound truly magnificent for ’70 ties. Cliff stuck to the hard bop idiom till the very end indeed. I think I will not hunt his holy grails from the BN heydays.

  2. You have all missed the most important questions , is that a vase in his hand , what was he doing with it , was it Italian or Chinese manufacture.
    My favourite Jordan’s are with Mingus in 1964 with Dolphy, gets him right out of his comfort zone.
    Keep up the good detective work

    • Interesting suggestion. I agree that it looks more like Tate than Jordan. Plus it’s consistent with Chuck Nessa’s claim who probably knew the musicians personally.

  3. The “Sue” in the runout is actually Bre for Joe Brescio – “also looks like Joe”, a mastering engineer of many jazz recordings at Bell Sound and New York’s Master Cutting Room.

  4. any other Jordan favourites out there?

    Yes plenty.

    Lots of recording with Cedar Walton, Sam Jones and everyone’s fave sticks man Billy Higgins on European labels.

    Hello Hank Jones, Play What You Feel – The Clifford Jordan Big Band & Clifford Jordan And The Magic Triangle ‎– Firm Roots all spring to mind.

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