Friday, August 9, 2013

Remembering Esteban Jordan.

Esteban Jordan in Japan.

This upcoming August 13th will mark the 3rd year anniversary of the death of Esteban Jordan. The Elsa-native is considered by many to be one of the greatest accordionists ever. So I'm going to use this occasion to pay tribute to "El Parche" by listing the five must-see videos of his long storied career.

5. "Fly, Robin, Fly" (YouTube) - What an odd trip this turned out to be. This curious gem of a video first appeared online two months ago, uploaded on YouTube by the sons of Jordan. Jordan takes the European disco hit, "Fly, Robin, Fly", and makes it his own with his mind-bending accordion-playing skills. It takes a special kind of conjunto accordionist to branch out and do something as experimental as this. Part of the charm of this late-1970's video is its dated special effects — superimposed images and 'far-out colors'. I have been straight-edge my entire life, but I imagine this is what a hallucinogenic experience must feel like.

4. Caliente y Picante (DVD) - In August 1989, Los Angeles hosted a who's who line-up of Latino musicians. This one-night extravaganza was released on DVD in 2007; one can purchase it on Amazon for a good price. The internationally known stars that appear include Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia, Celia Cruz and Tito Puente. Jordan makes two brief but memorable appearances in this fantastic DVD. The first one is at the mid-point of a Santana and Garcia scene, where the two are playing "Get Uppa". Jordan hops on the stage, feels out what his fellow musicians are playing and then goes an dynamic run on his signature Tex-Mex Rockordeon. After stealing the spotlight, he starts banging on some drums and disappears off stage. There is something enigmatic about this particular Jordan moment. The second cameo is during a joyous jam-out session with over a dozen star musicians performing and singing "America The Beautiful".

3. Hermes Foundation (DVD/TV) - Jordan considered himself a jazz musician and these pair of videos are an examples of what he could produce when working within that genre. These two videos originate from a documentary that the owner of Hermes filmed during the 2000's. I've asked around for the DVD but have found nothing available for purchase. I did find out that a TV-version of this aired on syndication, in Mexico and certain areas of the U.S. After the death of Jordan, these two videos were uploaded on YouTube by Hohner's Gilbert Reyes Jr. The first video is Jordan's version of George Gershwin's "Summertime", a hugely popular jazz standard. The second video is a cover of George Benson's "Clockwise", which sounds incredible on the button-diatonic accordion. These recordings contain what might be the last two brilliant Jordan performances captured on video. Incredible stuff.

2. "Rhythms of the World" episode (TV) - Appearing on a double bill that included Valerio Longoria, a TV crew from Europe flew in to San Antonio to film some quality conjunto music in the early 1990's. This episode of the "Rhythms of the World" documentary series has aired in various countries in Europe. We wouldn't have known about this over here in the U.S. if it wasn't for the YouTube uploads of Netherlands' Kok De Koning. This episode includes five songs performed by Jordan — "Ran Kan Kan", "Por Un Amor", "La Cumbia De Chon", "Georgia On My Mind", and "La Hilacha". Longoria joins Jordan for the latter two songs. My favorite tune of this collection is "La Hilacha", which highlights the brilliance of both accordionists. Near the mid-point of the video, there is a shot of an older-gentleman, with a huge smile on his face. He gets so excited by what he is witnessing that he raises his fist in the air.


1. "Austin City Limits" episode (TV) - One of the ultra-rare video treasures in conjunto music. Never released commercially on DVD or VHS, this episode of ACL aired in 1979 and was headlined by a double bill of Little Joe y La Familia and Esteban Jordan y Rio Jordan. On TV, approximately 26 minutes of Jordan's performance aired, which showcased five different songs. I've also been fortunate enough to watch the unaired, raw footage of Jordan's ACL taping. That obscure footage runs for 64 minutes and features twelve songs. In my estimation, this is the best footage found of Jordan's work. Thanks to Jordan superfan Rick Cortez, three video excerpts have surfaced online on — "A La Heavy" (Jordan introduces this tune as a Disco Polka and says, "Disco is where its at right now."), "Vengo A Decirte" and "El Cascabel". The first two songs are examples of Jordan's use of the echoplex, a tape-delay effect that was mostly used by guitarists. Jordan, being a total original, uses it to give his accordion a unique sound. The latter song makes use of a phase-shifter, providing a whirlwind-like sound to the accordion. Let's hope that some day, ACL decides to release the entire session on DVD. Trust me, it's something special and it deserves to be out there on the market for purchase. We see Jordan playing jazz guitar, going on masterful accordion solos, and creating an otherworldly-sounding mash-up of "La Camelia" (a song about drug-trafficking) and "Squeezebox Man" (a powerful, psychedelic instrumental).

Steve Jordan Austin City Limit - Vengo a decirte by rcortez911

1 comment:

  1. These are very cool. I am a huge Esteban Jordan fan. Just love his music and I haven't seen these videos. Thanks for posting them. Just to let you know, the drummer on the videos Summertime & Clockwise is none other than Juanito Castillo, who is a very, very good accordionist in his own right. This kid can jam on the sqeezebox. You should check out his music.