Monday, January 25, 2010

Esteban "Steve" Jordan - You Keep Me Hanging On

Esteban "Steve" Jordan (born February 23, 1939) is a conjunto (norteño) and Tejano musician from the United States. He is also known as "El Parche", "The Jimi Hendrix of the accordion", and "the accordion wizard". An accomplished musician, he plays 35 different instruments.

Born in Texas to migrant farm workers and partially blinded as an infant, Jordan was unable to work in the fields. Left at home, he found friendship and guidance among the elderly. At a very young age he was introduced to music, especially the accordion. At the time, the musician Valerio Longoria followed the community of migrant farm workers and played for them in the labor camps. These circumstances brought the two together and the young Esteban mastered the instrument quickly. While he has remained close to his traditional conjunto roots, he has never limited himself musically. More than any other accordionist, Jordan pushes the diatonic accordion to its limits, both musically and physically, playing traditional conjunto, rock, jazz, salsa, zydeco and more.

Unlike many conjunto musicians, he has kept abreast of technological developments, using devices such as phase shifters, fuzzboxes, and synthesizers, and was one of the few conjunto musicians to weave styles such as fusion jazz and rock into his music. He has also recorded country, western and mambo numbers. Members of his family frequently back him up, including his sons Steve Jr., Steve III, Richard, his eldest daughter Anita, and youngest daughter Estela. Currently, Steve III (guitar) and Richard (bass) accompany Esteban on-stage and in recording.

New wave polka bands such as Brave Combo have cited Jordan's influence. In 1986 he was nominated for a Grammy, but lost out to his old friend Flaco Jiménez. His bid for mainstream presence continued in 1986 when he was asked to do the soundtrack for the Cheech Marin film Born in East L.A.

He has appeared in the film Texas Conjunto: Música de la gente, a documentary about Texas conjunto music. He has also appeared in True Stories, an American musical film directed by and starring musician David Byrne. He did the music and appeared as an accordion street player in the film Born in East L.A. starring Cheech Marin.

From the NPR report The Corrido of Esteban 'Steve' Jordan:

"...Jordan's liver is diseased with cirrhosis and cancer. He underwent chemotherapy last year. But Jordan says he feels good these days. And he's finally begun granting interviews — he used to be notoriously elusive. Though he's ailing, he's still got the old attitude.

"Right now, I'm so far advanced that nobody can catch up to me," Jordan says. "Nobody, I mean, that includes nobody. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

Esteban Jordan grew up the youngest of 15 siblings in a family of southern Texas farmworkers. They picked sugar beets in Colorado, cotton in Arizona, figs in California. But Jordan couldn't work in the fields.

"I couldn't see a damn thing," he says. "I was a young kiddie. And I was turned loose at that age: Go ahead on, find yourself something to do."

Jordan says he started making a living as a musician when he was 7. By the late 1980s, it looked like his career was finally taking off. He played the Berlin Jazz Festival, had a Grammy-nominated album and played the soundtrack for Cheech Marin's Born in East L.A. Hohner even produced the "Steve Jordan Tex-Mex Rockordion."

Back then, some even started calling him "the world's best accordionist."

Jordan should have ridden that wave 20 years ago. He should be set now, sitting back, enjoying the fruits of his international renown. (He has rabid fans in Germany and Japan.) But he says he isn't seeing any royalty payments.

"Nada," he says. "Not a half a penny. They've been taking advantage of the handicapped."

He isn't too happy about it, either.

"Of course I'm bitter," Jordan says. "Everybody's living in Oceanside, and here I am living over here, a poor little dude."

He speaks from the living room of his rundown rental house. The linoleum is cracked, and two dogs mill about a bare front yard.

But Jordan has a plan to finally take charge of his music. He says he has nine CDs' worth of unreleased material in which he plays and overdubs every instrument. He's mixing it at his house, which he shares with his two sons, Esteban III and Richard..."

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Townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt