Jordan Officer – Three Rivers
11 tracks | 44 minutes
Jordan Officer is mostly known as a jazz guitar sensation and co-founding member of The Susan Arioli Band. He has received as much praise for his technique as he has for his tender expressive and interpretive abilities. On this disc he blends blues, jazz, country and gospel seamlessly into one flowing personal story. He showcased this album at this year’s Montreal Jazz Festival (a/k/a Festival International de Jazz de Montreal). A true homecoming as his aforementioned original band was discovered at a local outdoor show in 1998, then being offered the opening slot for Ray Charles at that year’s Jazz Fest. Now he was back there, 20 years later, the returning native son to debut his fourth solo album produced by Charley Drayton, drummer for Keith Richards, the Australian band Divinyls (“I Touch Myself”) and on the B-52’s hit “Love Shack”.
All these songs were composed during Jordan’s travels along the blues trail of the South. He felt that by visiting the places where the genre was cultivated he could connect with the music. He sounds vocally like Michael Franks or at times like J.J. Cale yet his soft spoken word style is all his own. He lets the guitar and violin leads do the loud talking most of the time. On the pitch perfect opener “Your Body’s My Home” his lyrics split the difference between objectification and unlimited devotion. She is his home but the physical manifestation is the necessary result of this and is cleverly intellectualized.
He plays all kinds of solos throughout the disc like double-stop leads, violin hoe downs, and soaring single-note alternating picking that spark runs of fluidity not seen on many blues albums. He is simultaneously reminiscent of vintage Buddy Guy and Charlie Christian. On the swinging “One Handed Push-Ups” he sings scat along with his blazing violin riffs. He boastfully tells the listener “I’m Jordan Officer and I’ll play the blues for you…and we’ll all be friends before the night is through”. He knows his audience and has the right to make the boast. This cat can play! He likes to spin tales too. “Driving Back from Three Rivers” is the titular song which he bathes in comfy tremolo aurally signifying the longing of a musician to get back home.
He gets nice and wistful on an 8 bar “Just to be with You” which uses the same chords as Tampa Red’s “It Hurts Me Too” evoking a similar emotion. On “He Got It All” he gets bitter when a rival man enters the bar with “A soft gentle swagger and looks to spare” that captures the eye of his beloved. This is the familiar story of many old blues tunes about straying women and the pain and suffering of the cuckold and what it drives him to do. This is the subject matter he lusts after but he’s still a bit awkward in the genre as he does not seem the seasoned pugilist. But who knows? Maybe he’s got himself a trainer by now. “Man you won’t know what hit you, as you go flying out that door.”
The final track is an instrumental “Buck Jumping in New Orleans”. It has numerous key-change modulations, one for each solo. He alternates between guitar and violin as he bears down the final stretch toward the checkered flag. All this over a Bo Diddley beat that veers off into the jump swing jazz he’s more familiar with to end on a very high note.