Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 7, No. 5, 2008

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Phil Nixon
Robert Rotondo
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor

Montreal Guitarmania 2008 (Martin Taylor, D. Ross, J. Officer etc
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2006 Montreal Guitar Show 2008







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: JORDAN OFFICER
© Jordon Officer @Montreal Jazz Festival 2008

From their humble beginnings (I first saw the trio play in Montreal’s Chapters bookstore), it was always The Susie Arioli Band featuring Jordan Officer on guitar. Despite Susie’s A-major stage charm and velvet voice that every lyric loves to linger in, Jordan Officer's guitar work was deemed so essential to the group dynamic that his name has always been highlighted in their programs and CD covers – a decision that has been warmly embraced by both listeners and label.

What Jordan Officer does like no other guitarist is perform his accompaniment and solos with a punctuation that is at once highly original, bravely transparent and so simple it defies the mysteriously gratifying result. Think of the first five notes of the middle movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto 26 and ask yourself how can this be so exquisite, when it’s the same note played five times? Or, what is it about the fifth note that reveals the meaning and poignancy of the preceding four? Jordan Officer does for the bare minimum of notes, in his time and genre, what Mozart and especially Bach did for theirs, imbuing them with varying degrees of density and motility, and the strength of character to create their personal space, where the rendering, in context, perfectly bridges the before and after. Through our encounters with these exceptional acts of creation, we come to recognize what constitutes perfection in the arts.

A typical Jordan solo is an homage to quasi minimalist playing, replete with elisions, oddly weighted clusters of notes, sudden hesitations and dead stops, starts that begin after the beginning, halts that come before the stop, and most significantly, just when you’re expecting to hear a note or sequence of notes, his refusal to play them – resulting in you, the listener, playing them in your head, leaving you a fully engaged participant in a solo of someone else’s making – and loving it. In an era when note making by the millions (Al Dimeola, Bireli Lagrene and their finger blurring epigones) has trumped the art of making music, the arrival of Jordan Officer is not only refreshing, but a lesson on how layers of meaning can be found in the simplest of notes and the spaces between them -– and why the risks of leaving one’s self so exposed are worth the taking.

Before Officer turned 30, he had already discovered what few guitarists are able to in a lifetime: his own style, comprised of a telltale interval through which he reveals himself to the world as he interprets it. But in Officer’s case, it’s not so much the defining interval he exudes in his ascents and descents that we immediately recognize, as with John Scofield when he first started up with Miles Davis, but rather his devilishly tantalizing original punctuation that features unpredictable sequences of aborted flourishes and meaningful silences that never fail to inject new life into music that was written in the 1930s and 40s. Like Bach (on harpsichord), he knows how to weigh and place a note or chord like no other guitarist today such that if 25 guitarists were asked to solo on the same standard, it would require less than Usain Bolt’s 9.69 to identify the musical DNA that defines Officer as Officer.

So the question I asked myself during the Jordan Officer concert at Guitarmania, the mini-guitar festival that ran for three days inside the 2008 Montreal International Jazz Festival, is why is Officer getting away from doing what he does so singularly well? To be sure, he played well enough, sang well enough, and his play list, which included a few jazz inflected originals as well as Country and covers, was agreeable to the ear. But that was it, and by morning it was hard to recall what I heard. I was truly baffled until it occurred to me that since Officer has been heading his own band, he has felt compelled to fill in and deliver a fuller -- code for more satisfying -- sound. Thus, the spare playing for which he is celebrated disappears or gets lost in the conventional delivery of what ends up sounding like a conventional product.

The more I thought about it, despaired over it, I was forced to conclude that Jordan Officer, still in his very early 30s, hasn’t truly grasped the nature of his accomplishment, that being his unforced original manner of punctuating his solos and support playing so that the listener immediately seizes upon the style that is inseparable from the musician, keeping in mind that style, when forced, always ends up militating against what can only come about as the unpracticed response and reaction to life and its living.

If criticism, in its best sense, is first and foremost a collaboration, where the end goal is the evolution and enhancement of both the work and its agency, I’m hopeful Jordan Officer will receive these words with the deliberate pace and humility with which they are intended. Who among us, in the course of a life time, doesn’t make a misstep from 'time after time,' and who among us can say they haven’t got by without 'a little help from their friends?'

I, for one, am looking forward to Jordan Officer getting back to his A-game because I’m totally convinced that by the time he turns in his badge, he will merit serious consideration as one of the significant jazz guitarists of his time.

Listen to Mr. Officer at his very best playing Cole Porter’s Night and Day.

Jordan plays "Playboy Chimes."

Photo © Marcel Dubois




John Coltrane
Miles Davis
Thelonius Monk
Charlie Mingus
Oscar Peterson
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
Wes Montgomery
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