Duke Jordan

Duke Jordan

Piano icon Piano

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August 8, 2006 (Age 84) died

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April 1, 1922 Birthday

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New York, New York, U.S. Birthplace

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Duke Jordan was an influential modern jazz pianist and composer. He is best known as the pianist for Charlie Parker's 1947 quintet which also featured Miles Davis and Max Roach. Following his time with Parker he went on to play with the Sonny Stitt/Gene Ammons/ Quintet and with Stan Getz. Jordan recorded his first album at leader in 1954, which included the classic tune "Jordu." He recorded several more albums as leader, including the well known' "Flight to Jordan" in 1960. In addition to his work as a bandleader, he also freelanced extensively in both New York and Europe, performing and recording with notable musicians such as Oscar Pettiford, Kenny Dorham, Don Byas, and Kenny Clarke. Despite his impressive credentials, Jordan experienced periods of unemployment, and in the 1960s, drove a cab to make ends meet. In 1978, he relocated to Copenhagen, where he recorded extensively for the Danish label SteepleChase. Jordan passed away in 2006 at the age of 84.


Duke Jordan was married to the jazz singer Shelia Jordan. Duke Jordan wrote part of the soundtrack for the 1959 French film "Les Liaisons Dangereuses." Duke Jordan's tune "Squawkin'" was inspired by some cabdrivers that Jordan saw "squawking" at each other in the street.

Early Life

Born in New York in 1922, Irving Sydney Jordan's parents were musically inclined, though they weren't professional musicians. At the age of 8, he began piano lessons, which he continued through high school. Following graduation, he joined trombonist Steve Pulliam's septet, which won an award at the New York World's Fair in 1939. Jordan went on to spend a few years with John Hammond's group before ultimately finding himself playing at Murians' club in Harlem, where bebop was just beginning to take shape. Jordan was exposed to the work of Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker. He soon became one of the early pianists to adopt the new style.