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relix Q&A with Steve Jordan

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Beat Odysseys: Steve Jordan on Recording with Mix Master Mike, Bettye LaVette and Robert Cray

"Being an artist or a musician is a preexisting condition," Steve Jordan reflects. "It's not a smooth ride. There are some amazing highs, but there are also some deep valleys. You need to go through all of it. You don't really have a choice." The drummer/songwriter/ producer describes these travails in conjunction with his role at the Jazz Foundation of America, the organization where he serves as artistic director alongside his wife, Meegan Voss. One of Jordan's current priorities is to help the JFA raise funds to support artists who are in need during the current COVID-19 crisis.

relix Q&A asked SJ: How did you approach Bettye LaVette's new album, Blackbirds?

The record pays tribute to some of Bettye's favorite female singers and some of the records that she admired when she was coming up-people like Dinah Washington, Della Reese, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. The songs are reimagined from their original recordings- they're not just remakes. Bettye picked the songs and she has done a stunning job of interpreting them.

I'm excited about it because these songs hold a special meaning for her. Sometimes, when she reinterprets someone else's material, she hasn't really heard that much of it before, although she always has a knack of making a song her own. She's a very special individual and a very special artist.

I approach working with Bettye as if I was working with Sinatra. They only need one or two takes because they're going to bring it. They're not warming up into it and they know what they're going to do, so you've just got to be ready to capture whatever is going to happen. Whenever Bettye opens her mouth to sing, you can tell that this is the real deal.