"There are times when you have to make changes. move on and follow the courage of your convictions. That's why the title of this new album is so apt, so appropriate for where I am in my life right now. " Highly acclaimed guitarist, multi-talented producer and songwriter Ronny Jordan is speaking of A BRIGHTER DAY, his auspicious label debut for Blue Note Records.
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With twelve tracks that capture his virtuosity and range, the album has all the earmarks of a milestone in the London-born musician's burgeoning career. Acknowledged as one of the initial pioneers in the global acid jazz movement, Jordan has built a strong following for himself through his three previous albums for Island Records: his move to Blue Note signifies a new chapter in both creative growth and expansion of his audience worldwide. "Being an artist on Blue Note is the fulfillment of a dream for me, "Jordan says. "This is the most charismatic jazz label in the world with an incredible legacy. I'm starting the new millennium in the right place.
"Recorded in New York in 1999, A BRIGHTER DAY is a dazzling showcase for Jordan's artistry. Segueing from the breezy, optimistic flavor of the title cut (with lead vocals by Brooklyn-based Stephanie McKay) to the 'trip-hop' feel of "Aftermath" (one of the six cuts Ronny wrote for the album), the set finds Jordan exploring new musical terrain as a recording artist. "I really feel this record is giving me the first opportunity to show all that I can do," he notes, referring specifically to "Two Worlds," with its distinctly 'bossa-nova' rhythm; "Mambo Inn," originally recorded on Blue Note by guitarist Grant Green in 1962; "Rio," Jordan's evocative nod to the music of Brazil; and "New Delhi," a distinctive reworking of a Victor Feldman composition that features Indian artists Shivas Shanker on tablas and Sivashakti Sivanesan on vocals. "I felt somewhat restricted on some of my previous albums," Jordan adds. "More than any other record I've made, I think this one has more musical versatility to it."
Giving props to the British acid jazz scene he helped originate, Ronny offers the eminently cool yet funky "London Lowdown," a prime example of the fusion of jazz, hip-hop and funk that helped formulate the early '90s movement. With its retro flavor, "Mackin,'" is another reminder of those early pioneering days; in contrast, "5/8 In Flow," the album's closing cut (featuring Stefon Harris and drummer Jeff 'Tain' Watts) is strictly straight ahead in its approach, a reminder that Jordan counts such legends as Wes Montgomery and Grant Green as early musical influences. Paying homage to another of his heroes, Jordan recorded Roy Ayers' classic "Mystic Voyage" and was able to secure the renowned vibist's services for the recording date. He notes, "The song is in my all Top 10 favorite tracks. It has a timeless quality and I talked with Roy about doing it as a tribute to a mutual friend of ours, the late Zachary Breaux. Having Roy on my record was like a dream come true for me.
"The diversity Jordan displays on A BRIGHTER DAY is hardly surprising given his early affinity for a range of music. Born in London in 1962 of Jamaican parents, Ronny's initial influences were gospel-based. The son of a minister, he was exposed to the music of The Soul Stirrers and Andrae Crouch among others and as a self-taught guitarist from the age of four, his first public performances were with different gospel groups in and around London. The jazz guitar stylings of Grant Green and Wes Montgomery and the funk of James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic and Earth, Wind & Fire also had a major impact as Jordan began his professional career in music. The advent of rap was also a turning point: "I remember how I used my four-track tape machine to record a jazz melody and mix in some hip-hop beats. I liked the idea of fusing the two together.'
The now-classic "After Hours," his very first recording on which he played all the instruments, was rejected by British record companies; however, a compelling reworking of the Miles Davis classic "So What," marrying the improvisational nature of jazz with inner-city hip-hop grooves gained enough of a buzz on London's underground music scene to land Jordan a recording contract with Island Records. Ronny's groundbreaking 1992 debut "The Antidote" was heralded as one of the most influential albums in the emerging acid jazz movement, and as an important catalyst in the '90s re-emergence of the guitar as a primary instrument in contemporary jazz. Teaming with rapper Guru in 1993, Ronny performed on the pivotal "Jazzmatazz" album as well as recording his second album, "The Quiet Revolution." In 1995, Island released "Bad Brothers," which contained remixes of earlier work and the same year, Ronny re-joined Guru for "Jazzmatazz Vol. 2: The New Reality." A consistently popular performer throughout North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and South East Asia, Ronny released his third album "Light To Dark" in 1996.
Signing with Blue Note in 1999, Ronny approached his latest project with renewed excitement and energy: "Making this album has been a great cause of celebration for me," says Jordan who married his wife Christine in September 1998. "You can't always see what's ahead but you must go with your instincts." Ronny Jordan's musical instincts are unquestionably intact on A BRIGHTER DAY which includes production by Ronny with Brian Bacchus; and with his longtime musical director Joel Campbell. The album features a number of prime New York session players, acclaimed keyboardist Onaje Allen Gumbs (on "New Delhi") and former Prince-affiliated vocalist Jill Jones with DJ Spinna and Ticklah on a tantalizing, infectious cover of "Why, "written by Nile Rodgers and the late Bernard Edwards of Chic fame and a 1982 hit for Carly Simon).
"This album has a more organic feel to it than anything I've done before, "Jordan concludes. "The energy of the New York musicians was very conducive to what I wanted to do in taking my music to the next level." Running the gamut from the trip-hop groove of "Aftermath" to the sensual quiet storm flavor of "Seeing Is Believing," A BRIGHTER DAY fulfills on Ronny Jordan's early promise as a groove master while reinforcing his status as a leading light and musical pioneer.
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