ListN Up: Lewis Jordan (June 17, 2022)

ListN Up is a weekly series of artist-curated playlists that offer an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. 

Lewis Jordan is a saxophonist, poet, improviser and composer from the Bay Area who has toured and recorded internationally. As artistic director of the ensemble Music at Large, Lewis accepts the challenge to produce work that bridges artforms while acknowledging our roots.

Hi, I’m Lewis Jordan. I’m a saxophonist, poet, improviser and composer. I hope you enjoy this playlist. I’ve tried to put together some selections from my influences and some selections from what those influences have inspired me to do. In some cases, you might see a connection, in other cases not. I leave that to you. One of the selections is from a sound familiar to me from my childhood on the Southside of Chicago. The other selections from influences are from a period at which I began to see that my journey was to be a performance artist. I hope you like it.

“In a Sentimental Mood” by Archie Shepp

Archie Shepp’s approach to music is infused with the theatrical, whether it be with poetry or, in this piece, with the juxtaposition of sensibilities. The freedom in interaction with the group after the opening solo was always exhilarating to me.

“Heaven’s Bells” by Lewis Jordan and Music at Large

This is my homage to Albert Ayler. His commitment to the spirituality of sound was one of my first influences as a beginning saxophonist, and the spoken words are meant to capture the challenge and intent of his approach.

“if i were king” by Lewis Jordan and Music at Large

This is my poem set to music. My intention was to present a simple idea from multiple perspectives, ultimately arriving at the one which inspired the poem in the first place.

“Honey Bee” by Muddy Waters

For me, it is always important to ground my perception of the avant-garde. When I do, I can easily be brought back to one of the dominant sounds from the environment I grew up in, the Southside of Chicago, with the guitar solo here opening windows for me.

“Faces and Places” by the Ornette Coleman Trio

This is one of my favorite Ornette Coleman pieces. Working in a trio setting in this piece, he seems off (on!) and running from the very first note, with all the playfulness and joy to be found in his work coming out here.

“Original Faubus Fables” by Charles Mingus

When I first heard this, it was hard to know which excited me the most: the dynamic music and interplay of Mingus, Richmond, Curson and Dolphy, or that Mingus presented an explicit spoken and sung rejection of the racist system at “that” time.

“The Fantasy’s All Mine” by Lewis Jordan and Music at Large

This is in homage to Lester Bowie — in the poem and in the music, there is a connection to his work with the Art Ensemble of Chicago as well as with his Brass Fantasy. Both of those entities were comfortable bringing different elements together that worked with no need of categorization.

“Take This Hammer” by Lewis Jordan and Music at Large

This is an arrangement of a Leadbelly song that could have been his anthem. There comes a time when you have to stop, when you have to acknowledge what your pride won’t let you do, and when you have to leave faster than you could ever be caught.

“Preaching to the Choir” by Lewis Jordan and Music at Large

The music provides the setting for a poem that began as a reaction to the often-glib dismissal of passionate points of view. Sometimes, it seems, we blithely disregard our own profound resources and the need for connection while we search for something more unique.


I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, funded with generous donor and institutional support. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not represent the views of ICIYL or ACF. 

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