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Magic Touch (1984)

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Charnett Moffett

This debut record from Stanley Jordan features the guitarist's extraordinarily idiosyncratic tapping technique on a variety of material. Jordan's revolutionary approach to the instrument, consisting of striking the fretboard with both hands to sound notes, allows him access to musical possibilities that are simply out of the reach of other guitar players. It is in his hands that the guitar attains a level of self-accompaniment formerly held only by the piano. Fortunately, Jordan puts his prodigious chops to good use making good music. One area in particular in which he is terrifically talented is in the reinterpretation of modern pop material. His version of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," accompanied only by the subtle percussion of Sammy Figueroa, dismisses the British melancholy of the original for a light-as-air interpretation that brings out the playfulness in the melody. Also impressive is Jordan's cover of Michael Jackson's "The Lady in My Life," which the guitarist gives a smooth, sultry reading. On the flip side, Jordan also proves that he is not out of touch with the history of jazz, with delightful versions of "Freddie Freeloader," "'Round Midnight," and "A Child Is Born." The guitarist's sidemen, who include drummers Omar Hakim and Peter Erskine, are all seasoned professionals, and they play well, but no matter how good the group performances on Magic Touch are, they are no match for the shocking polyphony of Jordan's solo material. It is there that the record really comes alive. Jordan's later albums were not to capitalize on the promise shown on his debut, but in Magic Touch the guitarist had something truly special. An instant classic, and one of the definitive moments of modern jazz guitar. ~ Daniel Gioffre