Scott Yanow's Biography of Steve Jordan from

Born: 1/5/1919

Died: 9/13/1993

by Scott Yanow

One of the last of the acoustic rhythm guitarists, Steve Jordan kept the Freddie Green/Allan Reuss tradition going into the 1990s. He actually studied early on with Reuss (Benny Goodman's rhythm guitarist) and Jordan was always much more interested in being part of a rhythm section than becoming a notable soloist. He was a member of the Will Bradley Orchestra during 1939-41, was with Artie Shaw for four months during 1941-42, and played with Teddy Powell for two weeks before joining the Navy. After his discharge, Jordan worked with Bob Chester, Freddie Slack, Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra, Stan Kenton (1947), Jimmy Dorsey and Boyd Raeburn. With the end of the big band era, Jordan became a studio musician for NBC and freelanced. Among the many artists who he recorded with were Gene Krupa, Mel Powell, Vic Dickenson, Sir Charles Thompson (the last three as part of John Hammond's mainstream series for Vanguard), Buck Clayton, Ruby Braff, Benny Goodman (with whom he played on and off during 1953-57), Wild Bill Davison, Clancy Hayes, Buddy Tate, Helen Ward (1979) and Ed Polcer. Jordan was less active in the early 1960's (working for a time outside of music as a tailor) but he worked regularly with Tommy Gwaltney at Blues Alley in Washington D.C. during 1965-72 and appeared in a wide variety of swing and mainstream groups from the mid-'60s on. Steve Jordan (who turned down the opportunity to be Freddie Green's successor with the Count Basie Orchestra) recorded his only album as a leader in 1972 for Fat Cat Jazz. The guitarist wrote his memoirs Rhythm Man which was published by the University of Michigan Press in 1991.

Scott Yanow is the author of nine books on jazz, as well as numerous bios and liner notes. The above information was originally written for Scott's website is at

Steve Jordan's Notes (from his 1972 album, "Here Comes Mr. Jordan):

I play like what I am! I am a rhythm section guitar player. Like all the rhythm section guitar players who made it with the best big bands, I never thought in terms of solo playing. That style of playing would be too delicate for a big band, no power! I practiced playing chords, good changes, good strong chords enforcing the rhythm, the beat. Practicing scales was for the horn players, and the horns would sound awful without a balanced rhythm section. Consequently, I never played a solo on any record, or with any band I was with.

As a youth I studied with Allen Reuss. We play a similar style which evolved from the early George Van Eps who was Allen's teacher. Allen Reuss is the best rhythm section guitar player there ever was, including everybody! This is S.J. talking. All of us tried our best and I was with Benny Goodman longer than Allen was, and longer than the wonderful Mike Bryan, and longer than Dave Barbour, and longer than Tom Morgan, and Benny Heller, and George Van Eps; but none of these great players (who no one even seems to remember now) can come up to the quality of Allen Reuss. I'm grateful he gave me a little of his sparse time and I hope you will invite him to record.

Now, leaving the road some ten years ago and playing around D.C. with small groups, I have been forced to play solo stuff, and I don't sing too well in my opinion. Billy Goodall is an ex-Tommy Dorsey, George Shearing, and Charlie Barnet bass player; and in my tags, I even threw him a couple of curves. At any rate, I have enjoyed making this recording and I hope the overall picture presents decently some of the nostalgic songs that are not heard anywhere except from me. If so, I'll feel happy.

Sincerely, S.J.

Other Items of Interest:

Obituary from the Washington Post, September 15, 1993

Appreciation by Tom Scanlan, Washington Post, September 15, 1993

Letter to the editor, Washington Post, September, 1993