On June 21 2016, I sent an e-mail to Jordan Klemons asking him advice on 4 things:
4) playing in time, swinging very strongly
I responded to his e-mail where he said:
Hit reply to this email and tell me, what would you like to learn? What are you struggling with? What questions would you have wanted to ask the masters?
In reply to my e-mail, he sent me a very cool blues etude and he told me he was inspired by old website, A Chord A Day where I shared pretty chord voicings. Since then, he’s been extremely kind to mention how that website inspired him to explore his own teaching and outreach online. We’re two people, him in New York City and at point, I was in Berkeley, California. Jordan also shared some great advice and thoughts he had on the subject. He also mentioned he was working on two books at that point too.
I’m a fan of Jordan’s immense dedication, artistry, honesty to himself and the craft and his sheer freaking hard work. This is a guy that you simply must follow if you dig jazz guitar & jazz guitar education. I personally wish I can make more time to check out his FB group and the great work he does there. Very, very inspiring stuff.
So let’s learn more about Jordan:
Lover of all things beautiful. Explorer of sound and meaning. Composer, soon-to-again-be performer, and avid music educator. Adjunct instructor and guest lecturer, international masterclass teacher and one-on-one lesson provider, and organizer of an amazing online study group. Student of life, beauty, and self… and John Scofield, Peter Bernstein, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Brad Shepik, and Stefon Harris as well.
And now to the interview:
1.What’s your latest project?
My latest project, in reality, is an ongoing process of relearning the instrument. After moving to NYC and graduating from a masters program, I suffered some pretty intense medical issues that forced me to step away from the instrument for a couple years. I’m currently reacquainting myself with music and the guitar and putting a lot of focus on relearning the repertoire. I’m also using this experience as an excuse to begin focusing more on education, refining a solid practice method for myself and to offer to others through my online Melodic Triads Study Group that I run through my website https://www.NYCJazzGuitarMasterclasses.com
Besides that, my last real musical project was an album titled This City. It’s a concept album that can be listened to simply as music, but in its entirety is meant to be a non-verbal telling of the hero’s journey. Every track is a chapter of the story of “the hero” being called to action, leaving home, coming upon danger, engaging in different ways with the world around him. I hired a visual artist to help me create a unique piece of surrealistic artwork that accompanies each track to help bring the instrumental music to life by offering a visual component to that chapter. It’s almost like a story book with pictures, but instead of words it’s told with music.
I fortunately finished writing and recording the music before I got sick. However much of the album itself was created while I was sick. I couldn’t play music, so working on the other parts of it became a therapy for me. I would take pictures of my favorite parts of NYC on my way to and from the hospital and send them to my visual artist. And then he would take those photos, drop them into photoshop, and create these amazing surrealist collages to help pull the listener into a dream-like world with the hero.
You can check it out at https://jordanklemons.bandcamp.com
2. What inspires your music?
Everything. Life. Joy. Heartbreak. Suffering. Experiences. Falling in love. Having it ripped apart. Walking near rivers or in the woods. Looking at paintings in museums. The innate urge to offer something to the world and make it a more beautiful place. Getting sick and experiencing some very close calls at the edge of the cliff of my life and somehow finding my way back from there was huge. Perspective is an amazing motivator. Sometimes other music, but that’s less of an influence than other things for me.
3. What’s your 5 Desert Island Albums?
Chet Baker & Paul Bley – Diane
The Complete Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Recordings
John Scofield – A Go Go
Kurt Rosenwinkel – The Remedy: Live at the Village Vanguard
Some type of classical music compilation spanning the centuries… including works from Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Dvorak, and other miscellaneous composers. I know this is a bit of a cheat answer. But classical is a favorite genre and tradition of mine, and I can’t pick one musician from that lineage. I need them all.
4. Who’s one artist/musician that you love but most people probably don’t know of?
Stefon Harris. Many people in the jazz world know of him. But not enough people. He’s just a mad scientist. He love how he approaches music first and foremost. Getting to study and play with him completely changed my life and my understanding of music, listening, and how to come at things I want to grow with. His unique method allows him to fit in in almost every situation and still sound like himself. He just knows how to sing with his vibraphone and has one of the deepest understandings of harmony of anyone out there.
5. What’s an advice you wish someone told you when you started in the arts?
Work your ass off. Hard. Constantly. Music gives you back what you give to it. If you don’t put everything into it, there will always be things missing in your playing. BUT… be patient, have fun, enjoy every step, and remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s about being human. Find your balance.
6. As a jazz guitarist, composer and educator, what has been your biggest challenge in your work? How did you overcome it?
Almost dying and having to relearn how to play. Having to go through the journey two times can be extremely disappointing and frustrating. I can’t comment on how I overcame it, because I’m still working through the journey at this moment. What helps me continue striving is remembering that none of it is about me anyways. It’s about the music. I feel compelled to make the world a better place by trying to be a vehicle for beautiful music to be here. The problems in my tiny little life ultimately mean nothing in the grand scheme of the universe. So I remain grateful to have a second chance to relearn and continue playing, and I approach it as an amazing opportunity (and struggle) to build my music from the ground up with the intention and control available to me as a 35 year old educated musician, and not as a 10 year old who had no idea what kind of fire he was playing with when he first picked up that guitar he found in a trash can on his way home from school.
7. How do we reach you?
NYC Jazz Guitar Masterclasses https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpbYtPOzNWUP0kRUSsAJH9g
Thank you for your time Jordan!
Thank you for reading this week’s instalment of #AzCreativeFridays. Please do check out the past interviews (26 so far, including this one) and come back next week for the next one… perhaps another jazz guitarist? Stay tuned! 🙂
Read the recent [Creative Fridays] interview:
[Creative Fridays] #14 : Taylor Roberts
7-String Solo Guitarist
[Creative Fridays] #15: Dylan Lee
[Creative Fridays] #16: Scott Murphy
Saxophonist and Composer
[Creative Fridays] #17: Nisa Addina
[Creative Fridays] #18: Jake Shimabukuro
[Creative Fridays] #19: Jared Sims
[Creative Fridays] #20: Gabriel Lynch
[Creative Fridays] #21: Rizal Tony
Jazz Guitarist and Educator
[Creative Fridays] #22: Raja Farouk
Multi-Instrumentalist and Sessionist
[Creative Fridays] #23: Kho Chia Wen Sharon
[Creative Fridays] #24: Josh Maxey
Jazz Guitarist & Educator
[Creative Fridays] #25: Toru Watanabe
[Creative Fridays] #26: Jordan Klemons
Jazz Guitarist & Music Educator
[Creative Fridays] #27: ???
Coming up October 5 2018
[About Creative Fridays]
The original Creative Fridays was an interview series I did back in 2012. Published on my website, www.azsamad.com, it explored the musical influences of various musicians from all over the world. Relaunching this now in 2018, there are some cool add-ons. For a super obvious one, we’ve now added Spotify and YouTube links whenever possible for the Desert Island Albums list.
This to me is amazing because you can actually immediately listen to the recommended albums. Coming from a generation that used to make trips to the record store to check out new music, it still boggles my mind that we can immediately listen to the records that is recommended here. Imagine if you listened to the 5 suggested albums – how much could you learn from it?
Also, in addition to the original questions from the series, I’ve added a new question into the mix asking about the biggest challenge each individual has faced in their work. I’ve found that we all can benefit by learning from one another. Let’s share and grow together!
If you know a musician who you think could be a good fit to be featured in Creative Fridays, please contact me with your ideas. The focus is in diversity for music, cultural background, geography, age and experience. It doesn’t matter where you are around the world, if you’re a creative making interesting music on an interesting journey and have something to share, please reach out to me. Please do note, due to this being a weekly series, the interview may be featured later in the year depending scheduling.
Thank you! 🙂
[The Original Series]
Season 1: Every week for 13 weeks, published from Feb 2012 to April 2012.
[Creative Fridays] #1 : Kevin Broken Scar
(Melbourne Singer-Songwriter/Sound Engineer)
[Creative Fridays] #2 : Deborah Crooks
(SF Bay Area Singer-Songwriter)
[Creative Fridays] #3 : Dylan Kay
(UK/Auckland Jazz Guitarist)
[Creative Fridays] #4 : Azmyl Yunor
(Malaysian Singer-Songwriter/College Lecturer)
[Creative Fridays] #5 : Gustavo Assis-Brasil
(Boston Jazz Guitarist/Educator)
[Creative Fridays] #6 : TragiComedy
[Creative Fridays] #7 : Candelaria
(Oakland Cumbia-Dub Band)
[Creative Fridays] #8 : Pete Teo
[Creative Fridays] #9 : Lori McKinney
(West Virginia Bandleader/Festival Organizer)
[Creative Fridays] #10: Helen Sherrah-Davies
(UK/Boston Violinist-Composer & Berklee faculty)
[Creative Fridays] #11: Adam Everett
(SF Bay Area Drummer-Composer)
[Creative Fridays] #12: Julian Chan
(Malaysian Jazz Saxophonist)
[Creative Fridays] #13: Sharon Chong
(Malaysian Keyboardist and Vocalist]
[More about Az Samad]
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