JAZZ REVIEW : Standards Procedure Quiets Jordan’s Revolution : The London-based guitarist and his septet do their best at the Coach House when breaking out on original material with strong rhythms and pop-styled hooks.


It’s not an original concept. Many crossover musicians have taken jazz standards and beefed up the sound with amplification, accessible beats and improvisations that stray only slightly from the tune’s melody.

And Ronny Jordan, the London-based guitarist who played the Coach House on Monday, does it better than most.

But that’s not Jordan’s strong suit. In a 90-minute set, Jordan and his backing septet paid homage to their jazz roots but turned in their best performances on original material--music with a touch of jazz sensibility, but based more solidly on strong, direct rhythms and pop-styled melodic hooks.


While Jordan’s current release, “The Quiet Revolution,” looks to rap and hip-hop for its personality, Jordan’s live show seemed designed to show that he’s really a jazz cat at heart. And that is where it failed, sometimes miserably.

The band opened with “My Favorite Things,” the ditty from “The Sound of Music” that saxophonist John Coltrane made a personal declaration of freedom.

But there was little of that liberated feeling here, as Jordan and company brought a reassuring comfort to the tune with a simple bass line, direct percussion and colorless improvs that, while pleasant enough on the surface, did little to reveal the personality of the improviser.

Similar treatments were given to “All Blues,” taken at a moderate tempo, and Miles Davis’ “So What” (both from Davis’ groundbreaking 1959 “Kind of Blue” session), the fast-paced modal exercise that has become Jordan’s signature since the release of his first album, “The Antidote.”

While both were tightly executed and played with a certain amount of propulsive spirit--the interplay between drummer Tony Mason and percussionist Sola Akingbola was particularly invigorated--they paled in comparison, as did “My Favorite Things,” to the weighty originals. “All Blues” in Jordan’s hands seemed particularly dull.

The mood changed considerably when the guitarist switched to his own material. Following “My Favorite Things,” “Blues Grinder” was a tough, spunky workout that featured a unison theme between Jordan and flutist Gary Belfield and sharp, five-beat accents that fell just-so during solos. Jordan’s guitar work was especially attractive: hard-driving and full of unexpected twists and corners.


Ballad-paced numbers, including “Nice ‘N’ Slow” and “The Morning After” came across in much warmer fashion than “All Blues.” Jordan sounded particularly heartfelt on “After,” his Wes Montgomery-inspired tones speaking volumes on the number, which he dedicated to his mother.

The addition of rapper Radical M.C. to a pair of mid-set numbers was unnecessary, with M.C. acting more as a cheerleader for the instrumentalists than a presence in his own right.

Sporting a Shaq T-shirt, M.C. paced the stage on “Season for Change,” one of the album’s better numbers (performed by rapper Guru on “Revolution”). He was able to generate little enthusiasm, hurt by amplification that made his lyric difficult to decipher. And when he bumped out the line “I’ve got a tale that’s never been told . . . “ one couldn’t help but think we’d heard it before.


The evening’s strongest voice belonged to Jordan, whose solos were full of lyrical moments, sharp chording and intelligent, inspired lines. Less effective were keyboardist Joel Campbell and flutist Belfield, both of whom were melodically powered but unable to break from their persistent, uninterrupted pace.

The lone jazz standard that seemed best suited Jordan’s to approach was Wes Montgomery’s “Mr. Walker” on which Jordan delivered his most detailed and thoughtful solo. But his strongest moments came near the end of the program on “Tinsel Town” and “Monte Carlo,” when the band fired up the afterburners behind Jordan’s spark and sizzle.