In Memoriam: Kidd Jordan

Published on: April 7th, 2023

906 Kidd Jordan [Photo by Charlie Steiner]

Kidd Jordan [Photo by Charlie Steiner]
Kidd Jordan [Photo by Charlie Steiner]

Legendary avant-garde saxophonist Edward “Kidd” Jordan died on April 7, 2023 at the age of 87.

Jordan was a highly accomplished and committed improv performer and educator. Throughout his career, he collaborated with an impressive array of musicians, including Alvin Batiste, Marshall Allen, The Hawkettes, Ornette Coleman, Stevie Wonder, Joe Turner, and Sun Ra.

Jordan was born on May 5, 1935 in Crowley, Louisiana. He grew up listening to zydeco and blues music, and took great influence from Charlie Parker and Lester Young after picking up the saxophone in high school. His musical ambitions soon became more far-flung as he delved deep into the world of improvisational jazz.

In addition to being one of the leading jazz improvisers, Jordan was regarded as one of the world’s top jazz educators. His career as a teacher started in 1955 at Bethune High School in Norco. He went on to teach at Southern University from 1972-2006, and served as head of the jazz studies program there. Jordan also founded the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp and the Don “Moose” Jamison Heritage School of Music. He served as the Artistic Director of the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp from its founding in 1995 until 2019.

He taught a number of now-notable New Orleans musicians, including Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Trombone Shorty, Donald Harrison, Jon Batiste. Calvin Johnson, Nicholas Payton, Richard Moten, Wendell Brunious, Tony Dagradi, Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah (formerly Christian Scott), and members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. His longevity as a music educator is supported by a central premise: that his students’ music contain just one critical element -- originality.

As a musician, Jordan was an “avowed contrarian,” but also took gigs to support more mainstream artists whom he respected. He played backup for tours and albums with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Professor Longhair, R.E.M., and Albert King, among others.

Jordan held a bachelor’s degree in music from Southern University and a Master’s from Millikin University. In 1985, Knighthood was bestowed on Jordan by the Republic of France, where he held the title Chevalier des Arts et Lettres. In 2000, he was awarded OffBeat Magazine’s first Lifetime Achievement in Music Education Award. In May 2017, he received an honorary doctor of music degree from Loyola University New Orleans.

Jackie Harris of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation stated, "Kidd dedicated his life to teaching youngsters of all ages. His passing is the end of an era of music education in New Orleans. His spirit and determination was a shining example that gave musicians the confidence to express themselves with 'No Compromise.'"

The funeral service will be held Saturday, April 15, 2023 at Gallier Hall (545 St. Charles Ave.). A public viewing will be held from 8-11am, followed by a celebration of life from 11am-12:30pm and a traditional jazz funeral second line.

WWOZ sends our best wishes to his family and friends at this difficult time. 

See our photos of Kidd Jordan through the years below and an excerpt from the Jordan Family Jam that was held at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Center when it first opened in December 2014. The Jazz & Heritage Center now holds the Heritage School of Music.

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