Clifford Jordan

Clifford Jordan

Tenor Sax icon Tenor Sax

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March 27, 1993 (Age 61) died

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Chicago, Illinois, U.S. Birthplace

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Clifford Jordan was a tenor saxophonist who began his career in Chicago in the 1950s. He moved to New York City in 1957 where he quickly made a strong impression. Over the course of his career he released over 30 albums as leader and appeared as a sideman on dozens of others. He recorded with Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Art Farmer, Max Roach, and Cedar Walton, among others. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s he toured Europe frequently, first with the Charles Mingus Sextet and later with his own groups. In the 1990s, he led the Clifford Jordan Big Band. Jordan was also dedicated to music education; he worked frequently with the New York public schools, taught lessons for Jazzmobile and served as faculty at the Henry Street Settlement. Clifford Jordan passed away from lung cancer in 1993 at the age of 61.


Clifford Jordan's album "Drink Plenty Water," featuring vocals by his daughter, was recorded in 1974 but wasn't released until 2023. Clifford Jordan toured the Middle East and West Africa with Randy Weston as part of a US State Department program. In 1968 Clifford Jordan was the music director for the first Dancemobile, a flatbed truck that brought dance to inner city neighborhoods in New York.

Early Life

Clifford Jordan, born in 1931 in Chicago, was the only child of a middle-class family. He began classical piano lessons when he was 5 years old, but preferred playing the old spirituals and songs that his grandmother taught him. At age 13 he started playing the saxophone and attended Du Sable High School, known for it's excellent music program. While still in high school Jordan began playing for neighborhood parties and dances and was soon working frequently around Chicago. By the late 1950s, he was gigging around Chicago with artists such as Max Roach and Sonny Stitt.