Jordan Family Musicians Shape New Orleans Sound Sir Edward "Kidd" Jordan was a champion of new styles of jazz in New Orleans, and now his children are making their mark on music.
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Jordan Family Musicians Shape New Orleans Sound

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Jordan Family Musicians Shape New Orleans Sound

Jordan Family Musicians Shape New Orleans Sound

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan broadcasting live today from le chat noir in New Orleans, Louisiana.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of news)

CONAN: Those of us in the audience here in New Orleans probably know the Jordan Family. Jordan patriarch Sir Edward Kidd Jordan was the champion of new styles of jazz in this city and taught the likes of Terrence Blanchard and Wynton and Branford Marsalis. Kidd Jordan's children have made their own indelible mark.

Kent, Stephanie, Rachel, and Marlon, when Katrina hit they scattered, but like many traditions here in New Orleans they were resilient. Here is the Jordan Family.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of the song “Clouds”)

Ms. STEPHANIE JORDAN (musician): (singing) Rows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air and feather canyons everywhere, I've looked at clouds that way. But now they only block the sun. They rain and they snow on everyone. So many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way.

Well, I've looked at clouds from both sides now. From up and down, still somehow it's cloud illusions I recall and I really don't know clouds, really don't know clouds at all.

Tears and fears, feeling proud to say I love you right out loud. Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, well, I've looked at life that way. But now old friends they're acting strange when they shake their heads and they say that I've changed. Well, something's lost but something's gained in living every day.

Well I've looked at life from both sides now, from win and lose, and still somehow, it's life's illusions that I recall. I really don't know life, really don't know life, really don't know life, really don't know life at all.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: The Jordan family; Stephanie on vocals, Kent on flute, Marlon on trumpet, backed by Simon Lott on drums, Harry Anderson on bass, and Michael Esneault on piano. And that's lovely.

Marlon, I wanted to ask you, I know that you were here during the storm and, well, I guess the question I'm learning from everybody around here, is, how'd you do?

Mr. MARLON JORDAN (Musician): Well, I'm here. I guess, my mother's in New Orleans, she's glad that I'm here too.

Unidentified Man: Yes.

Mr. MARLON JORDAN: She thought I was deceased, because I was on the roof for five days and I didn't have a phone. And, it was quite an ordeal, you know?

CONAN: On the roof for five days?

Mr. MARLON JORDAN: Yeah. I decided to stay, by accident. And I was sleeping and then, all of a sudden, I just see a gush of water come through my house. So I ran upstairs and I didn't have a axe, so I had to bust through the top of my roof with a closet door and run on the roof.

CONAN: You broke through your roof with a closet door?

Mr. MARLON JORDAN: Oh yeah. It's amazing what adrenaline will do for you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Five days on the roof, did you have water? Did you have food?

Mr. MARLON JORAN: I had enough water and food for three days. So, I, luckily my aunt lived across the street from my house, so I had to swim across the street, amongst alligators and water moccasins and all other kind of things, and break into her house and get canned goods and what I could out of her house, and then swim back. And, also I had a couple of neighbors across the street who - a house caught on fire next door and they didn't know how to swim, so I had to go back in the water and swim, and go get them to bring them to my house. So it was quite an ordeal.

CONAN: It's an extraordinary story of, you know, courage and survival, and your decision to stay, stupidity.


(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Stephanie, you must have been worried sick?

Ms. STEPHANIE JORDAN (Musician): Oh yeah, we, well, we have a network of folks. I can remember, as a matter of fact, I still have messages saved on the cell phone. One of the persons that I called, I found out that he was in New Orleans in a boat, rescuing folks.

My good friend Jacque Moreal(ph), and I got in touch with him, I found out that he was, had a boat, and so I called him and I had Jacque out looking for Marlon. And anybody that we could touch base with, Jacque called me back immediately and said, look, I'm out, I've got other folks I know who have boats, you know, we're going to go try to find him. And they were out looking for him. And by a miracle, less than an hour after I talked with Jacque, he called back and said I think we've located Marlon, I think he's alive. And then the phone rang, and, well, Kent was calling because someone got in touch with Kent. And Kent said he is alive. And we found out that he had been airlifted off of the roof by the U.S. Army and sent to Birmingham.

So it was, those were some long dark hours. I mean, you know, uh, we didn't know how it was going to turn out, but thank God it turned out okay.

CONAN: Now Kent, I know you weren't in the city during the storm...

Mr. KENT JORDAN (Musician): Right.

CONAN: ...but you've stayed in New Orleans. You're obviously playing here. What's the music business like? We've heard so many stories of musicians having to leave town to make a living.

Mr. KENT JORDAN: Right. Well, I mean, fortunately for me, I mean, I live on the West Bank in Algiers, so, I made out better than anybody in my family. But, for a lot of musicians who's had to leave, it's been quite an ordeal to try to, you know, reorganize themselves and to try to become musicians again. Because, first of all, being a musician is not an easy endeavor, you know, to begin with. And to have all of your life possessions, like your instruments - not only your instruments and, you know, your music and all of the things that you've collected over the years, like my father lost something like 50 saxophones, so how do you replace that, you know, in a lifetime? So it's very, very difficult. But, slowly but surely, the music scene is going to be resilient like the city and it's going to come back, because at the heart of it, I think musicians want to communicate with their feelings.

CONAN: You mentioned instruments. Marlon, I understand there's a story behind your trumpet there.

Mr. MARLON JORDAN: Yeah, yeah. The Piano Fund in New York City, and also David Monette, who's a master horn builder for Winton Marsalis, they found out that I didn't have my horn. And we had to play at the Lincoln Center for the Higher Ground Benefit, which - I also want to give Winton and Lincoln Center a thanks for, you know, their work that they've been doing - but they gave me this trumpet as a, I guess a symbol of me being alive.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Well they weren't handing them out to dead people.


CONAN: Stephanie, let me ask you. You all perform individually, separately, and together as well. After growing up together, you - are there tensions? Is it, what is it like playing with your two brothers there?

Ms. JORDAN: Well, I'm a singer, so I just sing what I want to sing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. JORDAN: They have to follow me, you know, I have the mike. You know, it's great. You know, my brothers, especially Kent, you know, being my older brother, you know, he knows so much about music. And, you know, and Marlon, too, is a great musician and knows a whole lot. And so I'm really fortunate to be surrounded by great musicians, you know?

You know, I can't do what I do unless I've got a great backup behind me. And my brothers are so loving and so giving, and they share a lot; and my sister Rachel too. You know, Rachel is really the music producer behind everything. She's sitting in the audience. You know, Rachel is classically trained at the Peabody Conservatory and all of that, so she brings just a wealth of information and knowledge.

And, you know, we're family, so we fuss when we have to, about family stuff, but when it gets down to playing together, you know, one of things that we understand is that, you know, music is just a great thing to have. It's a gift from God.

And, you know, I tell people, you know, when I realized after Katrina - you know, my Katrina moment was, what did I have? Well, I have my voice, I can still sing, you know? And I have my grandmother's recipes, my mother's recipes in my head and I can get in the kitchen and cook, you know, New Orleans, food, you know? And that's good: you know, a suitcase, your recipes, and your voice is a good thing to have left.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: We're talking to the members of the Jordan family. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And, Kent, I wanted to ask you one more question - we're going to get another tune, don't worry about it - but I did want to ask you one more question. You guys are backup to the big star here?

Mr. KENT JORDAN: Uh, yeah. Of course.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KENT JORDAN: We're, well we have a great, you know, band of musicians; Mike Esenall and Harry Anderson and Simon Lott. So, Stephanie picks great tunes, so we get a chance to stretch out. What I mean, she really does, she picks some really interesting things to sing, so I enjoy it a lot.


CONAN: Yeah, Marlon?

Mr. MARLON JORDAN: I'd also like to say something. I would, um, like to talk about the record that came out before Katrina, which featured all of my family on the record. My extended family, my cousin Mark Chatters, my uncle Maynard Chatters, Alvin Batiste, the whole family, my dad, is on it. And that's, to me, was a symbol of, like, a rainbow, you know, coming out of the storm, you know? That I had something that I had done with my family together; and also with Stephanie, featuring Stephanie, and Kent's on it too. Everybody.

Ms. JORDAN: Yeah, right.

Mr. MARLON JORDAN: You Don't Know What Love Is, Marlon Jordan-dot-com.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And for those of us who were fortunate enough to watch the Higher Ground concert, the broadcast, I mean, that was just terrific. You guys were great.


Mr. KENT JORDAN: Thank you.

Mr. MARLON JORDAN: Appreciate it.

Ms. JORDAN: Now, you know, as musicians, you know, um, you know, to have a product out, you know, especially at a time like this, you know, this is, it's important for us, and all musicians, you know? How music impacts our community economically is tremendous, you know? Restaurants that feature live musicians and all of the concert venues that are here, you know? It's, you know, it's, we wonder what would the city be like without our music? I mean, you know, food and music, what else do you come to New Orleans for?

You know, so we're hoping that the politicians will really understand that they've got to support cultural programming, you know, here, and we've got to get our venues back up and going. And when people come in, you know, um, to eat in a restaurant and listen to some live music, it's important to us. So we need a mandate that we're needed around here.

CONAN: Well, let me thank you, you just heard Stephanie Jordan. She came down from D.C., we appreciate that. The Jordan family are Marlon, Stephanie, Kent, and special thanks to their sister, Rachel, who plays violin and is their manager; as well as Simon Lott, Harry Anderson, and Michael Esneault, who are backing them up today.

If you want to hear more of the Jordans you can visit our website at

What are we going to go out with?

Ms. JORDAN: Joey.


Ms. JORDAN: Joey, Joey.

CONAN: Um hmm.

(Soundbite of song "Joey")

The JORDANS: (Performing Joey) Joey, Joey Joey, Joey, Joey Joey. It's been too long, in one town. And the harvest time has come and gone. Joey, Joey Joey, Joey. Travel on. You've been too long in one place and the harvest time has come and gone.

That's what the women say to him when they're honky-tonking and (unintelligible). (Unintelligible).

Well he's all he wants of the women in this neighborhood, he sings Joey, Joey Joey, Joey, travel on. You've been too long in one town, and the harvest time has come and gone.

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