PORTRAIT – The renowned studio drummer succeeds Charlie Watts, who passed away on August 24. At 64, he embarked on a stadium tour with rock veterans. A late catch of light for a musician with an already busy career.
The studio musicians, eternal supporting role, have this “chance” to be able to touch the light without ever blinding them. At 64, Steve Jordan discovers the war machine that is a Rolling Stones tour, at an age when many of his friends are counting their retirement points. He was simply to act as an interim for the few dates the group gives this fall, while Charlie Watts recovers from his health problems. The death of the “gentleman drummer” from throat cancer on August 24th now pushes Jordan behind the drums of the world’s largest band, full-time.
Music from childhood
This pure New Yorker discovered music very early on, marked in large part by the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, when they first came to the United States. He is seven years old, and this first emotion passed, he invests in music as much as he can.
Besides the Liverpool quartet, the young musician was fascinated by “Miles Davis, Sly And The Family Stone, James Brown, [les labels] Motown et Stax“, As he told Modern Drummer magazine in 2004.”The fusion of my love for orchestral music, jazz (a passion he shares with Charlie Watts, Editor’s note) and rock led me to buy a guitar. I also played the trombone in college because I loved horn groups – Kool & The Gang, Mandrill … I also played the trombone because I wanted to play like Fred Wesley. But I didn’t stay there very long. The music I listened to always had an excellent composition. ” This taste for forms and structures pushes him to take on the role of metronome. And here he is settling on the drums.
Quickly, his devouring passion occupied all of his days, aided by his admission to the prestigious Fiorello La Guardia High School of Music and Arts during teenagehood. From then on, his rise was meteoric. Fresh out of school, he embarks with Stevie Wonder’s group. He then joined for one season the accompaniment group of “Saturday Night Live”, in 1978. That year, Dan Arkroyd and John Belushi, two actors of the SNL troupe, formed The Blues Brothers, to which he contributed in a way. sporadic.
SEE ALSO – Charlie Watts: Rolling Stones drummer dead at age 80 (08/24/2021)
These successive blows of brilliance built him a reputation as a reliable drummer, with an inimitable groove, and a snare sound recognizable among a thousand. Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Nicks, Cat Stevens or even Neil Young enlisted his services during the 80s. He contributed to the album Landing on Water of the latter, and regularly accompanied him on stage at this time.
It was also at this time that he met the Rolling Stones. Marked by his talents on the drums during “Saturday Night Live”, they called on him to briefly replace Charlie Watts in 1987. The beginning of a long friendship, especially with Keith Richards. The guitarist even hires him for his group the X-Pensive Winos, Jordan’s style bringing him a new musical breath. “Thanks to him, I managed to do some things that were too complicated with the Stones”, confided at the time the guitarist to the magazine Rolling Stone .
After more discreet 90s, he found a second wind in the 2000s, taking the opportunity to open up to more mainstream pop. We thus find him behind blockbusters of the time signed Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys or the I Am… Sasha Fierce by Beyoncé. At the same time, he formed the John Mayer Trio, accompanied by virtuosos: John Mayer on vocals and guitar therefore, and his great friend Pino Palladino, studio bassist capable of working with both the Who, Nine Inch Nails and D’Angelo.
Closer to us, he participates in the album Unorthodox Jukebox by Bruno Mars in 2012, then to Uptown Special by Mark Ronson in 2015, two huge successes.
In praise of simplicity
Recognized and celebrated today as one of the best drummers of his generation, he nevertheless affirms that his recipe is simplicity. Not surprising when you know that one of his heroes of youth and the one who pushed him towards the drums is called Ringo Starr. Often mocked (wrongly) for the lack of complexity of his playing, English brought an essential groove to the Fab Four, which largely inspired Steve Jordan. “There is a misconception about simplicity. (…) People get nervous and embarrassed to play just because they are afraid that it will be thought that they cannot play or that they are stupid. You have to get rid of this mentality because not only is it not true, but it does not serve a positive purpose in making music.», Explained Steve Jordan a few years ago to the specialized magazine DRUM Magazine. «Drums were one of the first modes of communication, sending messages from village to village. To get a clear message, you need to be simple, like Morse code. If you don’t do it correctly and simply, then you are confusing your message.»
Steve Jordan is now putting his simplicity at the service of the most listened to group in the world. On tour less than two months after the official announcement of his arrival, the drummer had to appropriate the repertoire of the English on a forced march. An integration facilitated by its long history with the group, as Mick Jagger confided a few weeks ago, to Rolling Stone : “He played with Keith before we started rehearsals, and he did his homework, he listened to the songs.»
Above all, he walks in the footsteps of one of the group’s pioneers, in all humility. “Steve arrives with great knowledge of the Stones. He has a lot of respect for Charlie. He often says: “No, Charlie plays like that.” He’s so meticulous, so aware of the seat he’s sitting on.»