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Jazz singer Stephanie Jordan will perform at the Provincetown Jazz Festival.


Jordan joins jazz lineup

New Orleans native makes first Provincetown appearance

By Sue Harrison
Banner Staff

Stephanie Jordan didn’t start out to be a jazz singer, but fate stepped in and pulled her back on track. She will take a break in her summer jazz tour, which includes performing for the Black Caucus in Washington, D.C. and Lincoln Center, to sing on Saturday at the 2nd Annual Provincetown Jazz Festival.Provincetown.

Before joining the musical world already inhabited by her father, saxophonist Edward “Kidd” Jordan and three musical siblings, Kent (flute), Marlon (trumpet) and Rachel (violin), Jordan studied communications. She worked in the nonprofit world, on TV and radio, and for a time managed a museum. But there was always music and singing in her life.

“Growing up, I listened to Nat ‘King’ Cole, Arthur Prysock and local singers like Johnny Adams,” she says by phone from a limo somewhere in Chicago where she’s headed for a jazz festival gig. “Nancy Wilson was a big influence, and Dinah Washington.”

She joined the family musical fold with a debut at the Takoma Station Jazz Club and has played at many Washington, D.C. jazz spots like Blues Alley and The Twins Jazz Lounge. She’s performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Marciac Jazz Festival in France and at Jazz Aspen. Music reviewers love her clean vocals touched with blues — she won the Billie Holiday Competition in Baltimore. Her credits go on and on, including joining with her sister Rachel to perform with the Louisiana Philharmonic.

Jordan also sings on five tracks on a CD called “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” recently put out by her brother Marlon. On that CD she ranges from smoky lounge-style jazz to upbeat standards and a tinge of the blues. During the title track, if you close your eyes you can almost see a beautiful woman leaning over a piano singing directly to you in the sweet, dark bottom of the night.

Like so many New Orleans natives, she is still reeling from personal loss in Hurricane Katrina. Her extended family, she says, lost over 20 houses including those of her parents, her sister Rachel and her brother Marlon, who was rescued from his roof after five days.

“Most of my family got out beforehand, but Marlon stayed behind,” she says. “I had eight feet of water in my house.”

She moved to Silver Springs, Md., with her son.

“I was able to save a few small things but I had to dump almost everything — the furniture, my car,” she says. “Things that meant a lot to me were suddenly gone.”

She had just finished converting her garage to a Pilates studio where she intended to give classes — Pilates is another passion of hers — but that was gone, too.

The debris is gone now and even the grass is getting cut, but the neighborhood is empty.

The problem is, there is nothing to come back to.

“To rebuild homes is one thing, but the infrastructure is completely gone,” she says. “There is no hospital, no schools, no fire stations. Electricity and sewage service is very limited. There’s no grocery stores, no banks, nothing that makes a community a community.”

Rents for the remaining housing units have skyrocketed, but pay hasn’t. Options are very limited at best. And it’s not just personal; it’s the backbone of the entire city that’s been destroyed.

“The African-American community will never rebound economically or spiritually,” she says. “The fabric of New Orleans definitely includes African-Americans, and whether we can return depends on the support we get to rebuild infrastructure. I’m a single mother with a beautiful nine-year-old boy. His school is gone. What do I do? Live in a trailer in my front yard? I lost my car. Any school he could go to is on the opposite side of the city. Multiply that times the 400,000 people who were displaced. How does that work? How do we get it back?”

She says now that Katrina is off the front pages, most Americans just think everything is being taken care of and will be fine. It’s not.

“The only thing I can equate it to is a bomb being dropped on a major city,” she says. She watches the Israeli-Lebanon conflict and says the pictures remind her of New Orleans, as do the faces of those suddenly cut adrift from all they knew or loved.

“The pain of it is very deep. I was at home last week and I just sat there in the car and couldn’t stop crying.

“Music is the one savior I have right now. I thank God every day for the state of Maryland and the aid it offered me. Jazz feeds the spirit. The more you give, the more you receive back.”

She will be giving her musical all on Saturday night.