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The wizard of strings

Finding healing in music Stanley Jordan

Finding healing in music Stanley Jordan  

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Legendary guitarist Stanley Jordan on weaving his magic on the instrument and his love for all things Indian

There are guitar virtuosos of every kind. And then there’s Stanley Jordan. The American jazz and fusion guitarist and pianist is a maestro in his own right with the special ability to literally play the piano on the guitar in an advanced two-handed tapping style called the ‘touch technique’.

Ahead of his performance at Windmills Craftworks on September 9 and 10, the celebrated artiste takes time off to talk about his work, his journey and his appreciation for Indian Classical music.

Pointing out that this is like a dream come true, Stanley says: “I still can’t believe I’m here! I’m looking forward to sharing my music, which is my number one purpose on the planet, with new people. I want this visit to be the first of many.” He adds that the classical music of India is one of the greatest traditions in the history of music. “And I find that it blends well with jazz. I explored this in a recording of ragas with two Indian musicians — Jay Kishor on sitar and Vedang Londhe on tablas. This was one of my favourite projects ever and I would like to take this idea further.”

Looking back, Stanley says children naturally gravitate to music and he was no exception. “My mother got me started with piano lessons at the age of seven, but I was already playing by ear and composing.” He goes on: “My musical journey and my life journey are intertwined. Music inspires me to improve my life condition because everything that’s good for my life is good for my music. That includes good nutrition, positive thinking and gratitude. Also getting plenty of sleep, but I confess I haven’t been doing well lately in that department,” he laughs and adds: “Music is also spiritual because it promotes mindfulness by grounding the artistes and the listeners in the here-and-now.”

Displaying a musical persona that exudes bold reinventions of classical masterpieces, soulful jazz explorations and stylish compositions, the guitar legend veers away from conventional strumming and picking, where he applies piano principles to the guitar fretboard, from his training in classical piano. He even plays simultaneously on two different guitars, or even on guitar and piano. For him, they are a single instrument with a wide range of tonal colours.

“My first instrument was the piano and when I took up the guitar, my piano background influenced my approach to it. I love the rich textures of the piano as well as the expressiveness of the guitar, and the ‘touch technique’ combines those two in a seamless way.”

Stanley also spends a good amount of his musical journey in the service of music therapy. “I had a healing experience as a teenager, when I got over the flu in one day while playing music for six hours with a friend. But I didn’t know music therapy was a profession backed by scientific research until I got into my 30s.” He elaborates that any kind of music can potentially be used to promote healing, depending on how it’s used. “Music can be used for pain relief, it can aid in both the birthing process and the dying process. It can help injured brains to heal and even regain lost function. It can deal with spiritual issues such as addictions. It can help us to come to terms with our emotions as well as to express them. It can also exercise the body. For example, singing or playing a wind instrument is good for respiration, and drumming develops strength and range of motion in our limbs. The list goes on and on!”

What’s the most important thing he would like people to take away when they listen to his music? Stanley says: “If I have a good show, people talk about me and about how well I played. But if the show is not just good but great, the people talk more about themselves and the experience they had. That’s my true goal—to create an inspirational experience for my listeners.”

He adds that at the heart of his music is “a desire to be one with the universe and to be a channel for divine grace.”

To musicians in India, Stanley has an interesting message: “It’s understandable to be attracted to the “shiny object” of popular music and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you are in the enviable position of inheriting an almost unbelievably rich classical music tradition that has been honed for thousands of years into one of mankind’s greatest cultural achievements. Anything you can do to help keep that tradition alive will be a great thing for yourselves and for the world.”

Catch Stanley live on September 10 from 9:30 p.m. onwards at Windmills Craftworks. Call 8880233322.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 7:56:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/The-wizard-of-strings/article14630747.ece

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