Jordan John – A modern Motown phenomenon

August 20th, 2014 by  |  Published in Concerts

Jordan John at Bassline Pub

Father and son musical chemistry at work.

Photos: Terry Steeves

Toronto’s Jordan John absolutely wowed the crowds over his 3-day stint of shows in the capital this weekend. I caught 2 out of the 3, with the first one this past Friday night at Wakefield’s landmark venue, The Black Sheep Inn, where he played to a packed house. The ones I attended, were on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, both held at Ottawa’s west end music club, Bassline Pub & Eatery, a place Jordan calls home, where he made his official launch as a solo artist 6 years ago. Now 28 years of age, Jordan has been surrounded his entire life by stellar musicians, a wealth of musical influences, and the guiding light of his father, legendary bassist, Prakash John.

Jordan is a multi-instrumentalist, with the drums being the front runner, although you’d be inclined to naturally think it was the guitar after hearing him play in his own band…his chops are that good. He plays the drums in his father’s highly acclaimed Rhythm & Blues band of 35 years, The Lincolns, as well as for Britain’s blues guitarist sensation, Matt Schofield. Every Monday night, he is a regular act at The Orbit Room, located in the heart of Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood on College Street, where he plays alongside a who‘s-who of amazing talent that frequently drop by to sit in. In his own band, a 3-piece configuration, Jordan plays electric guitar, alongside his father on bass, and the very gifted, newly acquired, Michael Carbone on drums. The music has adapted the elements of classic R&B, funk, and soul, and blended them with a strong blues backbone. The result is something of a supercharged, modern day Motown sound, with vocals that are Stevie Wonder, Daryl Hall, and Aaron Neville all rolled into one…you will be hooked after just one show.

Jordan John at Bassline Pub

Michael Carbone on drums, with legendary bassist, Prakash John.

Watching a Jordan John show is like stepping onto a musical ride of his own material, combined with medleys and trips into some timeless pieces that have been the source of influence in his songwriting. Saturday night, he began with Little Milton’s lively blues classic, “The Blues Is Alright”, which featured the first of his tasty guitar solo tidbits, and immediately set the toe-tapping, finger-snapping, and hand-clapping tone of the evening. He then delved into the buttery smooth groove of “Everyday With You”…an original off his recent debut album, New Day, which embodied flavours of Stevie Wonder. The song flowed into a driving, train chugging funky rendition of “The Letter”, then slowed only temporarily into the beautiful throes of “Masquerade”, which highlighted Jordan’s vocal range and his ability to smoothly travel between his falsetto, head, and chest voices. Then it was back into that infectious funky rhythm, with another original, “What’s Wrong With The World”, where the audience was encouraged to lend their voices in on the chorus. Other tracks performed from the CD were the very Daryl Hall-infused soulfulness of, “I Keep Falling In Love”, the gorgeous ballad, “My Heart”, and my personal favorite, “Tell Me”, a heavier bluesy piece, with more of that funky R&B seasoning, and hints of Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar goodness. I also enjoyed the great texture of track #3, entitled, “Girl”, which started out with some soft, soulful crooning bliss, intensified into some powerful blues, then returned back to its gentler pulsing groove, with some nice harmony vocals by Prakash.

Jordan John at Bassline Pub

Michael Carbone on drums.

The cover pieces were all done creatively, given a refreshing rhythm-driven boost, and often building into relentless, powerful solos, which brought the audience to bursts of applause everytime. I loved the medleys which took you on a journey through classic funk, Rhythm & Blues, soul, and pop. Some of these were Sly & The Family Stone’s, “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin”, James Brown’s, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”, Stevie Wonder‘s, “Uptight (Everything Is Alright)”, “Everyday People”, Prince’s “Kiss”, and “Dance To The Music”, all of which sent many up to the dance floor. Soul, and R&B favorites, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, and “Take Me To The River”, were delivered with an up-tempo energy, and featured more of Jordan’s incredible guitar solo work, as well as some of the best slap and pull bass I’ve ever seen, held down by Prakash. The three were in each other’s pocket at all times, and worked together as an insanely tight unit. I enjoyed watching the exchange of communication between them, and was especially impressed with Carbone’s intentness and ability to pick up the cues to deliver just the right syncopations with precision.

I also immensely enjoyed the tributes to one of my favorite singers, Aretha Franklin, with truly amazing versions of “You’re All I Need To Get By”, and the first song Jordan ever sang live, “Do Right Woman”, which wound up being recorded on the CD, along with his take on “I Never Loved A Woman”. He also performed a heart-stopping rendition of Patsy Cline‘s, “I Fall To Pieces”, which he knocked out of the park. By the end of the show, the audience didn’t want to let him go.

Jordan John at Bassline Pub

Jordan John and his band, perform on the Bassline stage.

Jordan expressed to me how content he is at this time of his life, having had the privilege of playing with other amazing musicians such as Jeff Healey, Burton Cummings, Wide Mouth Mason, Lucky Peterson, and Prince, to name a few. Many opportunities have led him to opening for musical greats ranging from Ray Charles, Johnny Winter, Robert Cray, and the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. He enjoys playing with his father, who has been his mentor, coach, and source of inspiration throughout his life. His father has taught him the importance of working hard at your craft, that there are peaks and valleys in the business of music, but to always be proud, carry yourself well, and surround yourself with strong, influential people. Jordan believes one needs to take the time to listen to the classics and learn from the masters in order to become a more well-rounded musician. Also, having an ability to understand art a little differently is a gift and deserves a solid path of development.

Two years ago, he was favoured by renowned producer/songwriter, David Foster, who flew him to L.A. to sign with Verve Records in what would have been a five album deal. Shortly after signing the deal, Jordan began to experience the discomfort of being molded into a marketable product, and found himself wanting out. He was able to escape out of the contract in a favourable buy out, and back into the realm of artistic independence. This learning experience brought him a new sense of confidence, and a clearer focus on the direction of his career. He finds himself completely satisfied with where he is now, savouring the time he has with his father, and enjoying his other outlets of artistic freedom. I found myself very impressed by this talented young man who at 28, has already experienced more than most beyond his years, and has attained a very healthy, positive, and mature attitude not just in terms of the music business, but in life in general. That in itself, is true success.

Jordan John at Bassline Pub

Toronto’s, Jordan John.

Jordan John at Bassline Pub

Jordan John…feeling at home on the Bassline stage.

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