New Orleans saxophonist and jazz patriarch Edward “Kidd” Jordan will receive an honorary doctor of music degree from the Loyola University New Orleans College of Music and Fine Arts. Known since the 1950s for his improvisational techniques and avant-garde musical style, Jordan has been an educator and professional jazz musician for more than 50 years.
Jordan performs on tenor, baritone, soprano, alto, C-melody, and sopranino saxophones, as well as contrabass and bass clarinets. He has performed and recorded in styles ranging from R&B to avant-garde jazz with a broad array of musicians, including Lena Horne, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, Gladys Knight, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, R.E.M., Art Neville, Aaron Neville, Johnny Adams, Deacon John, Ellis Marsalis, Cannonball Adderley, Alvin Batiste, Archie Shepp, Dewey Redmond, Fred Anderson, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, William Parker, Hamid Drake, Alan Silva, Ed Blackwell, and Cecil Taylor, among others. He was a member of two prominent New Orleans big bands: William Houston and Herb Tassin. Together with drummer Alvin Fielder, bassist London Branch, trumpeter Clyde Kerr, and saxophonist Alvin Thomas, he founded the Improvisation Arts Quintet. The group, which later included pianist Darrel Lavigne, pianist Joel Futterman, bassist Elton Heron, flutist Kent Jordan, and trumpeter Marlon Jordan, has recorded a remarkable catalogue of free-flowing instinctive, interactive avant-garde music in which collective passages of sounds are more than personal freedom. They are an evolution of complementary imagery moving together and apart, each performer becoming an ear, an eye, and most of all a heart for the sake of the creative spiritual soul. Citing him as a visionary educator and performer, the French government recognized Jordan in 1985 as a Knight (Chevalier) of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, their nation’s highest cultural honor.
Jordan, a native of Crowley, La., who grew up listening to zydeco and blues, was encouraged to play saxophone by his music teachers, Warren Milson and Joseph Oger, a French Canadian. After hearing Charlie Parker and Lester Young, he became interested in the art of jazz improvisation. He majored in music education at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge and, upon receiving his degree, relocated in 1955 to New Orleans, where he began playing R&B alongside musicians such as Guitar Slim, Ray Charles, Big Maybelle, Big Joe Turner, Lloyd Lambert, Lawrence Cotton, Chuck Willis, George Adams, and Choker Campbell. He later earned his master’s degree in music from Millikin University and pursued post-graduate summer studies with Fred Hempke at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
Jordan began his formal teaching career in 1955 at Bethune High School in Norco, La., after teaching at William Houston School of Music in New Orleans. In 1974, he became a professor of music at Southern University, where for more than 36 years, he shared his vision of improvisation and encouraged students to find their authentic creative voices. As chairman of Southern University’s Jazz Studies Program, he organized the first performance of the legendary World Saxophone Quartet featuring Hamiet Bluiett, David Murray, Julius Hemphil, and Oliver Lake. For more than 25 years, he has taught at the Jazz and Heritage School of Music and has served as artistic director for the Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Jazz Camp, an outstanding community outreach program. Jordan has taught hundreds, if not thousands, of students, including well-known musicians Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Donald Harrison, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Leroy Adams, Calvin Johnson, Sammie “Big Sam” William, Charles Joseph, Julius Handy, Curley Blanchard, Gery Brown, Kirk Ford, Raymond Deggs, George Pack, Richard Moten, John Longo, Reggie Houston, Wendell Brunius, Abe Thompson, Maynard Chatters Jr., Elton Heron, Carl Leblanc, Darrell Lavigne, Tony Dagradi, and many others. He has been a musical example to his seven children, including four well-known professional musicians: Kent, a master flutist; Marlon, an acclaimed jazz trumpeter; Stephanie, a jazz singer; and Rachel, a violinist.
Jordan was honored with Offbeat magazine’s first Lifetime Achievement Award for Music Education, and his musical contributions have been documented on CBS’ 60 Minutes. In 2008, Southern University at New Orleans Foundation honored Jordan during its annual BASH III, and Jordan was a Lifetime Achievement Honoree at the Vision Festival XIII in New York City. In 2013, the Jazz Journalist Association named Jordan a Jazz Hero.