You might wish that you saw Jimi Hendrix perform live before he died in 1970.
Thursday evening brings the next best thing, as “Stanley Jordan Plays Jimi” outside on the Strathmore patio for a pair of 60- to 70-minute sets at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
“It’s not just a standard tribute; I’m imagining that Jimi is alive today,” Jordan told WTOP. “This is my fantasy Jimi Hendrix concert. … From the moment he picked up the guitar to the day he died was only 10 years. It’s amazing how much he did in such a short time.”
Which Hendrix songs might we hear during the show?
“We do some of the songs everyone knows, like ‘Foxy Lady,’ and more obscure things like ‘1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be),'” Jordan said. “We do some things that I never heard Jimi do, but I feel he was going in that direction. For example, some of his late jams that surfaced later, he was getting into Middle Eastern scales and jazz influences.”
Born in Chicago in 1959, Jordan learned piano at age six, then guitar at age 11.
“I was a piano player and I saw the news that Jimi died and I was really touched by that,” Jordan said. “I decided in that moment that I’m going to play guitar, because I wanted to follow up on some of the things that Jimi did. … Jimi was really the inspiration for me.”
He studied music at Princeton University, where he met Benny Carter and Dizzy Gillespie.
“They brought me up on stage to play. I thought it would be intimidating, but once I hit the stage with them I just felt so natural and uncomfortable.”
He developed a unique playing style, tapping fingers of both hands on the fretboard.
“A lot of people know Van Halen for that — another artist we lost way too soon, so phenomenally talented — but Jimi was already doing some of those things,” Jordan said. “If you look on his 1968 live Monterey pop version of ‘Foxy Lady,’ he’s got his right hand up in the air and his left hand is playing lines with one hand. … I just expanded on some things that he was doing.”
In 1985, he was the first artist signed by Bruce Lundvall at Blue Note Records.
“He was at a different label,” Jordan said. “He said, ‘I don’t work here anymore; I just got a call last night from the chairman of Capitol Industries and they want me to revive Blue Note Records and they want to have a major pop label presence on the East Coast. They want me to head the whole thing and I want you to be the first artist I sign.’ … It was just an amazing thing.”
His first Blue Note album, “Magic Touch,” stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard jazz chart for 51 weeks, earning him two Grammy nominations. He’s earned four in his career, including for his recording of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” on his album “Cornucopia” (1990).
On stage, he’s collaborated with the likes of Quincy Jones and Dave Matthews.
“Another highlight was the song I did with Kenny Rogers, ‘Morning Desire,'” Jordan said. “He was such a sweet guy and so talented. What a storyteller. That was the No. 1 country song of the year. … I ended up having a major solo. The theme of the song was he doesn’t want to go to work; he just wanted to stay home with his lover and enjoy listening to the rain. I was the rain.”
On screen, he made a cameo in Blake Edwards’ movie “Blind Date” (1987), wrote the score for ABC’s special “Daddy’s Girl” (1996) and performed numerous times on late-night talk shows with Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon.
“One time when Johnny was hosting, we did ‘Stairway to Heaven,'” Jordan said. “Ten seconds before the curtain, my tech was having trouble getting my equipment to work. … The stage manager was counting down, ’10, nine, eight’ and said, ‘Fade to commercial.’ I said, ‘No, it’s OK.’ At the count of four, the tech finally got the rig to work, they opened the curtain and we played the song.”
He even made the startup sound for Apple’s PowerMacintosh 6100, 7100 and 8100.
“In 1994, I went to Apple Headquarters and did a lunchtime pep talk,” Jordan said. “Someone pulled me aside afterwards and said, ‘We’d like you to do a startup sound.’ … I’m proud of that. [Today’s Mac] is all synth; mine was [acoustic]. … If they ask me to do another one, I already know what it’s going to be. That first one was an E minor, the next one is going to be an F major.”
Tickets to the Strathmore show cost $148 to $208 per table of four.