Critic's Choice

Laughter may be the best medicine, but to Stanley Jordan, music is the universal anodyne. The celebrated jazz guitarist is a spokesman for the American Music Therapy Association, and his 2003 disc, Relaxing Music for Difficult Situations, Volume One, is an hour-long improvised solo piece that showcases the more restrained -- not to mention restorative -- qualities of his virtuoso style. When not soothing savage breasts, Jordan uses his fret-warping agility to twist jazz and rock cliches into stunning, nearly symphonic flurries. In addition to Relaxing Music, he also recently released a collaboration with sitarist Jay Kishor and tabla player Vedang Londhe, an exotic, mesmerizing cycle of lulling drones called, appropriately enough, Ragas. But despite all his innovation and exploration, Jordan remains firmly rooted in the post-bop idiom; his 1985 debut, Magic Touch, single-handedly resuscitated the legendary jazz imprint Blue Note after topping Billboard's jazz chart for an astounding 51 weeks, and his inhumanly complex finger-tapping technique radically reinvented standards like Miles Davis's "Freddie Freeloader" and Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight." Jordan's output slowed in the '90s as he became mired in his own perfectionism -- he's recorded several albums' worth of material that has yet to see the light of day -- but his adventurous projects in the new century have seen him recapture a bit of his old spotlight. See Jordan operate live on Thursday, January 8, at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, and Friday, January 9, at the Bluebird Theater. Sure, technically it's soft jazz, but his music always manages to maintain a warmth and soul in the midst of all its antiseptic precision.


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