Ronnie Jordan Interview 


Ronny Jordan is someone who is re-known for stretching the musical boundaries. After all he was amongst the first to fuse jazz with rap changing the face of contemporary jazz in the process. Like most creative people it’s clearly not enough to satisfy him. Perhaps because of the criticism he received from jazz purists during those early acid jazz days. 

“ There are many more sides to Ronny Jordan than meets the eye “ he tells me from his New York apartment prior to his recent sell-out gigs at London’s Ronnie Scott’s club. It’s taken him 12 years to get back to the place where he last performed on a night off for Roy Ayers and it clearly pains him that his true skills in the art form are not recognised more.” I am more mature now, I’ve been round the block a few times and I want people to know that there’s more to me than just a groove “. 

The London –born guitarist is also a student of jazz in general and talks with some eloquence and passion about the unappreciated jazz guitar which until recently was “ chugging away in the background.” Citing influences such as Charlie Christian and Joe Pass he feels that the instrument is more appreciated these days and wants to tap into that reminding audiences at the same time of the beauty of Jazz. 

It is clear that Jordan intends to be as diverse as possible moving freely between playing with an acoustic Quartet, DJ, Organ Trio and a nine-piece band. “ You know living in New York I’ve just had to adapt myself and at the end of the day-- just play. I’ve been luckier than most in that I have been consistent from the days of ‘ So What ‘ in attracting radio plays. My current album ‘ At Last ‘ is my most radio friendly yet, but it’s really just to gain exposure. Here on the East Coast I could not survive playing just smooth jazz live it’s seen as a west coast thing so I’ve had to adapt and that’s helped my playing.”

Growing up in London with its melting pot of influences clearly gave Jordan a head start in diversity and in his own words “ made him unique “. Discovering jazz at the age of twelve largely in the early years through the Blue Note records of his uncles he still did not shut himself off from either rock or indeed, pop. (Would you believe, Abba.? )  “ I would like to describe myself as a jazz musician with pop sensibilities “ he tells me “ after all it’s that mix which made ‘So What ‘ so successful. I had to cater for radio and I had to make a 5-minute song sound like a 3-minute song.  That’s not easy but it’s what has given the song its freshness and longevity.” 

Talking with Jordan one gets the impression that he is a man that knows exactly what he wants and how to get there.” When I was young I just wanted to be different and combine the past with the future. I wanted to have my own stance on the music. After ‘ Antidote ‘ Guru came to know of me and the rest is history “. Words of a legend.! 

Now a permanent resident of the US Jordan hasn’t ruled out of coming back to London to live at some stage and certainly does not want to lose his Britishness. “ The thing is “ he confides, “ I am near my heroes here. I can see Herbie Hancock getting out of a Limo or Donald Byrd just walking down the street. Any given night something is going on here. What happens in London in a month happens in New York in a week! ”  But as an Arsenal fan I miss the football and of course I still have close family in the UK.  

Dedicating a track on the new album to his father who died last year ‘ Heaven ‘ has a Gospel feel that almost brings him back to where he started musically at the tender age of 4.” My father embraced the good things and now in my maturity I realise I owe him and my mother an awful lot. You know one of the problems of today is that the kids do not respect their parents enough. If we leave the political things out, life wouldn’t be too bad if we just tried to live up to the original Ten Commandments. I believe that God gave me this gift and that as a result of that I always have to perform to the very best of my ability. But through it all, I must always try and remain humble. If I can give any advice to other musicians, particularly those that may be just starting out it is to try and be hands on when it comes to your career and also work out everyday-it clears the mind and allows the creative juices to flow through better.”

 There is no doubt that there is nothing wrong with Ronny Jordan’s creative juices. With a new album well underway with the likes of India Irie and his own hip-hop jazz label in the pipeline things have never looked better. Reluctantly, as our conversation draws to a close he tells me that “ it’s been a great ride, but now I am just more mature and have the grace to accept that which I cannot change.” One things for sure with a musician this diverse he himself is constantly changing and I for one cannot wait for the funky version when it hits the Jazz Café in Camden later this year.