"If I don't believe in solipsism, who will?" - Al Batt

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Esteban Jordan Again, Again

Somewhere in a dusty box in the storeroom I have a couple of old cassette tapes of Esteban Jordan. A couple of days ago I posted a YouTube video of him, which I suspect nobody listened to. You really ought to. I first tried to introduce him to you musical heathens back in 2009, with ... ah ... limited sucess. 

Esteban Jordan
Jordan was born in Elsa, Texas, about 15 miles from our Alamo winter residence, and was buried there in 2010. In the three years we have wintered in the Lower Rio Grande Valley we have slowly ferreted out the good Mexican bakeries, the best taquerías, the places that still make traditional tamales wrapped in corn husks, but we have not found any music approaching this. If there is some kid out there working on it, we'll find him eventually.

This is edited down from an obit in The Guardian. There is a great one in My San Antonio, but it's rather long. Have a look if your appetite is whetted.
'You probably have never heard of accordionist Esteban 'Steve' Jordan," the Texas journalist David Bennett wrote in his introduction to a 1988 album of the musician's work. For the Anglo audience he was addressing, it was a fair comment, but to anyone in Hispanic south Texas it would have been a joke. Jordan, who has died aged 71, was a leading figure in Tex-Mex conjunto music, his records on jukeboxes from Florida to California, a Chicano superstar.  
He began playing guitar at seven and accordion at 10, and by the age of 20 claimed to know his way around at least 20 instruments. During the 1960s, in a band with some of his brothers, he played in Hispanic clubs throughout the western United States. In 1969-70, playing guitar with the Latin-jazz percussionist Willie Bobo, he became known to audiences in the eastern US and had a chance to sit in with José Feliciano. 
Jordan was famously mercurial, sometimes taking a month out of his schedule to go fishing. One club owner wishing to hire him had to turn detective to find out where he was. Trying to book him for the Channel 4 series, I was warned that Jordan was not only elusive but suspicious of Anglos, tricky about contracts and altogether rather scary. He proved to be none of those things, and his show at Club Islas in Austin – an amicable "battle of the bands" with the north Texas polka group Brave Combo – was one of the high points of the series. 
"Incurably eclectic", as the New York Times once described him, Jordan could play in any idiom, from rock and pop to country music and Louisiana zydeco. Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records remembers: "One night he appeared on the same programme as Clifton Chenier, and apparently felt challenged to come up to the Zydeco King's standards. It was incredible … I saw him for the last time a few years ago when he played regularly at his girlfriend's tiny bar in San Antonio and poured out his heart for a tiny audience."

May music bring joy to your soul,
 Gunnar B.

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