In 2008, when Brian Culbertson was in his old hometown of Chicago for a high profile gig as an opening act at United Center, his drummer Chris Miskel not only introduced him to his friend Marqueal Jordan, he also invited the keyboardist to check out the popular saxophonist at a local club – one of hundreds of gigs he had done over the years. At the time, Culbertson was looking for a new sax player for his upcoming Bringing Back The Funk tour – and he was so blown away that he offered Jordan the gig on the spot.
After establishing himself on the urban jazz scene over the past few years touring with Culbertson and many other top genre performers, Jordan is now emerging as an artist in his own right with perfectly titled, Catalyst, a powerful and eclectic collection that establishes Jordan’s exciting vision of the future
of contemporary urban jazz. Developed over the past few years during down time from his increasingly busy schedule, Catalyst — whose vibe Jordan describes as “Grover Washington, Jr. meets Maxwell” — features three tracks produced by Jordan himself, three by prominent R&B/urban jazz producer Chris “Big Dog” Davis (Maysa, Kim Waters, Najee), two by prominent Chicago DJ/producer/artist DJ I.N.C. and one by R&B singer Frank McComb. “When You Smile”, a track that showcases Jordan’s equally soulful vocals, features Culbertson on piano, and the keyboardist also is credited as one of the project’s
recording engineers and associate producers.
A well-established freelance performer for years in his adopted hometown of Chicago, Jordan had thought about doing a solo recording even before getting the gig with Culbertson – but it was always a matter of finding the right voice and opportunity. He credits fellow saxophonist Mike Phillips, who joined the band for one of Culbertson’s Christmas tours, for encouraging him to stop thinking about it and get started. Phillips had enjoyed success as a solo artist in addition to his work as a sideman and simply told Jordan, “You’re next.” Culbertson’s former guitarist, Gerey Johnson, also helped kick the process in gear. Jordan’s drummer, Khari Parker, got the ball rolling by suggesting that the saxophonist record his co-written song “Buttas”.
“I think when you’re a busy sideman, if you don’t make recording your solo album a priority, it won’t become one”, says Jordan. “Even though the pieces came together slowly and from a lot of different talented collaborators, I had an overall vision of what I wanted to do, and that was putting my best foot forward, sharing a lot of my musical history as a saxophonist and singer in the worlds of jazz and R&B. My goal was to bring all of that together to tell the story of who I am, and I am really excited by the results and appreciate all of the many musicians and people in my life who helped make it a
Marqueal Jordan has been a popular ongoing presence on Chicago’s diverse music scene since moving to The Windy City in the mid-90s. Joining forces with guitarist Scott Leff, Jordan formed Fat Time, whose sound he calls “the quintessential 90s Chicago music scene sound…funky and blues-based with
a rock edge, a little James Brown with progressive Sly Stone”. Over the course of seven years, the band played hundreds of gigs throughout the city and even appeared a few times on “The Jenny Jones Show”.
When the band split, Jordan made the most of being a free agent, headlining his own gigs and working on and off with blues, jazz and old school R&B bands. Since hooking up with Brian Culbertson’s group, Jordan has been a featured performer at hundreds of concerts throughout the country as well as on numerous cruises. He is also featured on the keyboardist’s CD/DVD Live From The Inside. Over the past few years, he has performed with everyone from Mindi Abair, Walter Beasley and Peabo Bryson to Will Downing, Candy Dulfer, Buddy Guy, Kenny Lattimore, Chuck Loeb, Maysa and Ray Parker, Jr., among
many others. His CD release party for Catalyst, held at a ballroom in Chicago, received enthusiastic support of the city’s music community, and he will be performing more solo gigs to support the album.
FROM THE BEGINNING
Though Jordan will always be most connected in spirit to his adopted longtime hometown of Chicago, he was actually born in Los Angeles and spent his teen years in Kansas City. His first instrument was drums and he began playing the clarinet in grade school while also taking private piano lessons; he picked up the tenor sax for the first time at 12. Citing his early influences as everything from Motown and Ray Charles to Doo Wop and Miles Davis, he started making money playing gigs while earning his degree in Business Administration from the University of Kansas, where he also played in the jazz
ensemble. While the relationship he originally moved to Chicago for in his mid-20s ultimately didn’t work out, he took to the city and launched his career there, achieving his first notable success as the co-founder of Fat Time.
Jordan eases into Catalyst with the cool, laid bank funk and dreamy atmospheres of “2 AM” before sharing his truly soulful lead vocals, on the sultry, playful and romantic “Between The Sheets”. With his listeners fully seduced, the saxophonist takes them on a lush journey to “Maracas Beach”, which
was originally recorded by one of his chief influences, Grover Washington, Jr. The tune features a graceful lead melody and builds towards some dramatic improvisations and a spirited Fender Rhodes solo by Marcin Fahmy. His next invitation is to have everyone be “Chillin’ With MJ”, a moody and
atmospheric “liquid soul” tune with hypnotic textured horn accents and a swirl of tenor sax and old school keyboards. DJ I.N.C.’s edgy modern influence is front on center on “4 Sonny”, a cool and whimsical, scratch filled joint blending hip-hop with retro soul-jazz sounds.
The title cut, “Catalyst” featuring Frank McComb is a classic soul jazz delight, full of easy bass grooves, rising and swirling horns, Jordan’s lively tenor and shimmering keys. Jordan takes the mic for lead vocals again on the beautiful Quiet Storm styled ballad “When You Smile”, then gets the groove going
again on the sensual funk ballad “We’re Getting There”, which textures alto and tenor over a breathy romantic flow. “Buttas”, the track by Khari Parker, Andre “Big Jae” Harrison and Jordan that launched the album, features a dancing sax melody (played on tenor and alto) and rising horn harmonies over
a dreamy old school vibe. Jordan takes some creative license and goes out on a limb on DJ I.N.C.’s provocative “Life So Beautiful”, playing sax behind his infectious rap commentary on the world’s vast possibilities and the importance of elevating the spirit and liberating the mind.