Stanley Jordan takes Mozart for a spin in Randolph
By Kevin Coughlin
Jazz guitar pioneer Stanley Jordan has played some large and impressive venues, from the Kool Jazz Festival to the Mayo Performing Arts Center.
So it took him a moment to adjust to the cozy, 118-seat Randolph Performing Arts Center, one of northern New Jersey’s hidden gems.
“I was a little surprised. I hadn’t heard of this venue,” Jordan, 56, said earlier this month.
He quickly warmed to the place when he discovered it’s attached to The Music Den, a retail shop on Route 10. For three years, Jordan ran his own music and book shop in Sedona, AZ.
“As soon as I walked in and saw this store, I thought, ‘I’m home,'” Jordan recounted, after a 90-minute performance that ranged from original compositions to Coltrane to Mozart.
SMALL ROOM, BIG NAMES
Brothers Tom and Jerry Scognamiglio have been selling musical instruments and repairs at various locations since 1984. Some 450 students take voice and music lessons every week at their stores in Randolph and Roxbury, and the business rents instruments to about 100 schools.
But the Scognamiglios were determined to offer something more when they opened the Music Den in 2011.
“When we built the store, we wanted to get really good artists to play here,” said Tom.
Slowly, steadily, they are achieving that goal. Pianist Rio Clemente, Morristown’s “Bishop of Jazz,” is a fan favorite.
Sax man Benny Golson, another jazz luminary, also has taken the stage in Randolph.
Look for more big names in 2016, along with programs showcasing gifted students, promised store Manager Jason Pitt.
“We wanted to provide the community with culture, a place to go. We really wanted a hangout, where you feel comfortable whether you’re shopping for an instrument or not,” Pitt said. Café-style tables lend a casual atmosphere to the arts center.
The store landed Jordan with help from Vitali Imereli, a jazz violinist from Finland who teaches master classes at The Music Den. Performing alongside Jordan this month, Imerli fired off licks so hot that it’s a wonder the smoke alarms did not go off.
Rounding out the ensemble: Vladimir Zaslavski on piano, Rick Crane on bass and Steve Johns on drums.
Jordan liked what he heard.
“It sounds really good,” he said of the room.
Patrons paid $50 for an intimate view of Jordan’s mesmerizing two-handed fret-tapping technique, which creates a cascade of notes and sonic textures. A long line formed afterward to buy Jordan’s CDs and pose with the Princeton grad, a former resident of Orange and Plainfield.
Jordan shared insights about progressive relaxation, his method for unwinding, one muscle group at a time, when he’s on the road.
He also offers lessons online — and not just about his touch-tapping or unique all-fourths guitar tuning.
One of his courses, “The Art of Learning,” is designed to provide tools for quickly mastering almost anything.
“Over the years I’ve solved so many problems, I probably have a solution” for every student, Jordan said with a grin.