Duke Jordan, 84; Pianist in Famed 1940s Jazz Quintet

From a Times Staff Writer

Duke Jordan, a jazz pianist best known for his influential work with saxophonist Charlie Parker in “Bird’s” well-regarded quintet of the 1940s, has died in Denmark. He was 84.

Jordan died Aug. 8 in Valby, a suburb of Copenhagen, according to the U.S. Embassy in the Danish capital.

The cause of death was not announced.

Parker’s quintet, which also featured Miles Davis on trumpet, Max Roach on drums and Tommy Potter on bass, worked together from 1946 to 1948, recording primarily for Savoy as well as Los Angeles-based Dial Records.


Jordan, a veteran of bands led by Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge, was working at the Three Deuces in New York City in 1946 when Parker heard him playing and asked him to join the band.

He developed a style that was reminiscent of Bud Powell and Art Tatum. While with Parker, he offered some wonderful introductions to standards such as “Embraceable You.”

Jordan left Parker’s band in the autumn of 1948 and played with saxophonists Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons and Stan Getz.

By the mid-1950s, he was stepping out to lead his own bands and compose music as well. His work “Jordu” has become a popular work in the jazz canon. He also composed part of the soundtrack for the 1959 Roger Vadim film “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.”


Jordan worked mainly in Europe, leading small groups beginning in the early 1970s.

After visiting Copenhagen on a jazz tour in 1973, he settled there in 1978 and remained until the end of his life. He joined a number of other American expatriates living in Denmark -- including saxophonist Dexter Gordon and pianist Kenny Drew -- and recorded for the Danish record label SteepleChase. Jordan made more than two dozen albums for the label.

Jordan was born Irving Sidney Jordan in New York City on April 1, 1922.

He studied classical music as a teenager and played in swing-era bands.


His marriage to the jazz singer Sheila Jordan ended in divorce.

They had one child, a daughter named Traci.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Jordan was buried Friday in Denmark.