Ronny Jordan: Guitarist whose version of the Miles Davis classic tune ‘So What’ became an Acid Jazz dancefloor favourite

 

The Miles Davis standard “So What” has been a modal jazz touchstone for 55 years, providing the harmonic canvas for myriad improvisations and reinterpretations.

Yet the tune only entered the British charts in February 1992, a few months after Davis’s death, when the British guitarist Ronny Jordan recorded a funky version showcasing his bright, crisp and fluid playing over a backing track combining traditional jazz instruments and drum programming.

Released at the height of the acid jazz movement, Jordan’s take on “So What” became a dancefloor favourite and helped launch the guitarist internationally. The Antidote, his debut for Island, and his 1993 follow-up The Quiet Revolution, both sold 100,000 copies in the US, where he straddled the R&B and smooth jazz stations with a contemporary sound he described as “urban jazz ... Really big drum loops with fat grooves”.

Dominant throughout the jazz-rock era of the 1970s with John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola and Coryell, the guitar had been subsumed back into the backline but Jordan restored the instrument to prominence in the jazz world.

Jordan enjoyed collaborating with DJs and rap and soul acts, and broadened his fanbase with the Bad Brothers mix album and a guest appearance alongside the British vocalist D C Lee on “No Time To Play”, a UK Top 30 single in 1993. The next year Guru and Jordan teamed up with trumpeter Donald Byrd for “Time Is Moving On”, the opening track on Stolen Moments: Red Hot+Cool, the fifth of the Red Hot Aids Benefit Series of compilations.

In 2000 A Brighter Day, the first of two albums Jordan made for Blue Note, featured Mos Def on the title track and was Grammy-nominated in the Best Contemporary Jazz album category. The same year, Jordan won a Mobo award for Best Jazz Act and gained a new audience when “The Jackal”, a track from The Quiet Revolution sung by Dana Bryant, was lip-synched by the actress Allison Janney in an episode of The West Wing.

He was the second of seven children of Jamaican parents who had moved to London. Following his mother’s death he was brought up by his father, a church deacon, and wasn’t allowed to listen to reggae at home, though he grew up with the Beatles, Motown, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole and Sam Cooke. He began playing the ukulele as a child and by the late 1960s was backing gospel singers in church.

Switching to guitar in his teens he drifted towards jazz, influenced by players like Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery – and George Benson, who would guest with him during a memorable show at London’s Jazz Café in 2010. He remained a mainstay on the circuit until 2012, when he gave concerts in Japan, France, Spain and Italy. The cause of his death was not disclosed by his family.

Ronald Laurence Albert Simpson (Ronny Jordan), guitarist, songwriter and producer: born London 29 November 1962; died London 13 January 2014.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral