Gifted vocalist Stephanie Jordan, daughter of legendary saxophonist Edward “Kidd” Jordan, and sibling to three musicians, comes from a renowned Crescent City musical family. She says the question she asks every day to her family, “Have you talked to mama today, talked to daddy today? What’d y’all eat?”
Part I of II
What do you mean when you say you can “grow up in jazz?”
One of the interesting things about jazz is that you can grow up in jazz, especially when you’re a vocalist. When I first started singing when I was 26 years old. I knew I couldn’t sing. I didn’t have the experience. The songs didn’t speak to me because I didn’t know what they were about. I hadn’t lived enough. I couldn’t necessarily communicate to my audience. Jazz can grow you up, can mature you and help you understand where you fit into the world.
A New Orleans native, you must know how to speak the language of jazz.
Jazz is important, especially when you get down to the lyrics in a song. I don’t sing anything that I don’t like lyrically. I have to like the words. The words have to speak to me, so if words don’t really excite my soul, I’m not interested in the song. I don’t care how famous the song is or how familiar the composer is, though I love and respect composers and lyricists.
If you were given a pass to talk to any singer on the “other side,” who would it be?
Well, I’m going to have to lay it down on the line: Dinah Washington. The first time I heard Dinah’s voice, it just blew me away because it was powerful, strong and her diction was impeccable. When I started singing, I purposely wanted somehow to sound like Dinah. Dinah was so bold, hip, dark like me and feminine, but bossy like me! Dinah had to fight at a time when a woman had to stand up and have some grit. I would like to ask her, “Did you really hold a gun on your manager?” [Laugh]
You’re set to sing on stage; you open your mouth. What comes next?
I’m thinking about the words. I always open up with a song I’m so familiar with that I could sing it and a train could pass through the tent stage and not miss a note. I always like to open up with something that’s strong, that I really have under my fingers and underneath my tongue. That I can get the words out and set a tone. I’m very focused when I come out. Once I plan lyrics, arrangements and musicians, then I can start relaxing, especially if I’m on a big stage. The bigger, the happier I am. I understand you’re into yoga. Yes, yoga, and I teach a free class for the public, a jazz Pilates class sponsored by the Parks Service at the Old Mint. I use a CD by my brother Kent Jordan called Out of This World with the great singer Gloria Lynn. Not Just Knee Deeptakes me over the edge. I love some Parliament.
—Deborah DeMoss Smith, The Second Line, Sundays 11am - 1pm