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August 16, 2006

Bebop Pianist Duke Jordan Dies

Written by
cindy mcleod

dukejordan Bebop Pianist Duke Jordan

Pioneer of Bebop Duke Jordan Dies at 84

Bebop pianist Duke Jordan died last week in a suburb near Copenhagen, Denmark, where he had resided since 1978. He was 84.

Known for his work with Charlie Parker on the Dial and Savoy labels, the two were joined by Miles Davis and Max Roach to make an indelible mark on jazz music as pioneers in bebop, recording classics such as “Embraceable You,” “Crazeology,” and “Scrapple From the Apple.”

Born in New York in 1922, he began working in his teens playing with big bands such as the ‘Savoy Sultans’, the house band at the venerable Savoy Ballroom. In 1952—a time when interracial marriages were still outlawed in some States, Jordan married white jazz singer Sheila Jordan. The couple divorced some years later.

After recording with Parker, Jordan also worked with saxophonists like Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz and Sonny Stitt, led his own quartet, and created his own share of jazz classics such as “Jor-du” and “No Problem.” He also contributed compositions to the soundtrack of the 1959 film Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

By the mid-1960s, Jordan had developed a heroin habit, but rehabilitated himself in the 1970s and re-started his music career in Copenhagen, leading trios and quartets and performing at jazz concerts and festivals. He continued to record, producing more than 30 albums for SteepleChase Records.

Scott Yanow, the jazz historian, is quoted as saying about Jordan: “He never changed styles. He had been one of the very first pianists to pick up on the changes that bebop brought, breaking out of conventional song, which took jazz beyond dance music into something new.”

Survivors include Sheila Jordan and their daughter, Traci.

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