CD Baby

SuperString Theory Goes To Senegal by Derrik Jordan  review by CD BABY 7/5/07


Beautifully and intelligently combining the distinctive and striking voices of traditional instruments such as the kora, the balafon, talking drum and soul-stirring vocals, Superstring Theory Goes to Senegal accomplishes the difficult fusion of cultures mixed in evocative conversation. Where electric violin meets West African hoddu, where synthesizers and keyboards and electric bass share a common voice with Chinese flute and one-string Senegalese fiddle, there is a world of sound so harmonious and brilliantly compatible that a truly diverse and universally human vision is brought into existence.

While the album largely came to be during a trip to Senegal and with the crucial involvement of many local musicians, this project took its final shape upon Derrik Jordan's return home where he both technically and musically grounded the album in his own roots, appropriately rounding off the album with his own personal touches and the discovery of a talented Ethiopian singer living in his home town in Vermont.

Blending together bits of jazz within this fusion of world, traditional folk and a tasteful Western undertone, this new release showcases not only the technical and artistic brilliance of the musicians but of the concept and overall approach of the album and its global voice.


Derrik Jordan - SuperString Theory Goes to Senegal:

Our first review of Derrik's work was in issue # 68


... as those who read that review will know, I was highly impressed with his total grasp of "world music", but without the lack of energy that the genre title often implies. & this outing is even more outstanding. His 5-string electric violin is there (& you know it), but it's place in the mix is very non-intrusive; the mix, in fact, is pure artistry, in & of itself. If you listen to this CD at one sitting, you will realize (at least a little of) the magic involved in creating music - especially music that forms bridges between cultures.

Featured players include: Derrik Jordan; Barou Sall; Pape Sakho; Helen Kerlin-Smith; Tony Vacca; Erik Lawrence; Jo Salins; Steve Leicach; Sobobade Drummers... as you can see, a list far too long to itemize each instrument. One of the most impressive players here (though all were amazing) was the vocalist, Helen Kerlin-Smith... her vocals on "Aliwu Mix" are not only enchanting, they display a soul at (total) ease with the music... it was odd, too, because Derrik didn't actually meet her until he had returned from Senegal to Vermont - talk about strange, eh?

My favorite track on the album is cut 4, "Jump 12", a Jordan composition - make you have to get up & dance... pure joy all the way through this one. In fact, if you don't register high on the joy-meter after listening to the 11 tracks on "SuperString" - you'll never get over whatever's ailing you.

This automatically gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, but it also gets the "PICK" of this issue for "most creative musical expression"!


"His voice is reminiscent of Teddy Pendergrass, Michael Bolton and George Benson. Derrik Jordan is a powerful performer who has a real gift for writing songs. His music lingers long after it stops."

Brattleboro Reformer

Common Ground - May 3, 2007


Derrik Jordan feeds his muse in Senegal, finds a gem of a vocalist in his own backyard and releases a CD in a familiar, friendly place Brattleboro, VT - Southern Vermont's Derrik Jordan had only 12 days during his trip to Senegal this past January to find that country's finest musicians and gain their trust quickly enough to convince them to make music with him and his percussionist pal Tony Vacca. So Jordan broke out some modern technology to help his cause.


"I came up with the idea of bringing recording gear and offering to make CDs for them of their music," recalled Jordan in a recent email. "This proved to be a very popular idea. I made five CDs for five different groups of musicians while I was there. The look of sheer happiness on the face of kora player and singer Pape Sakho when he was listening to himself on CD for the first time is something that I will never forget." Sakho returned the favor, jamming with Jordan on the kora, a 24-stringed West African harp, and singing some traditional songs while Jordan improvised on his electric violin. The Vermonter had to push himself to keep up with Sakho. "The Senegalese sensibility is so different than ours, the kind of movements they make inside the music, the flow, made it really challenging for me to be able to fit in," he said.


Jordan also persuaded Barou Sall, Senegal's finest hoddu player, to jam. "He's a true master of his instrument and has deep singing voice almost like Barry White," said Jordan. "Hoddu is a small funky looking West African banjo with three to five strings. It's a carved wooden bowl with a skin across it and a stick coming out of it with a few strings attached. It looks like a child could have made it but in Barou's hands it sounds amazing. I recorded a CD for Barou of very old traditional songs and then later got to improvise with him in a duet the day that Tony and I went to Baaba Maal's studio in Dakar to record."


Jordan took the duets he recorded with those Senegalese stars back to Vermont and added some bass, percussion and piano to create "SuperString Theory Goes To Senegal," his vibrant, hypnotic and celebratory new CD that also includes some haunting vocals from Helen Kerlin-Smith. "She's from Ethiopia and was adopted by a local family," explains Jordan. "She goes to the BUHS, and my daughter introduced me to her right after I got back to Vermont. She's going to be a superstar in the Ethiopian music scene in a few years. She's already making waves in DC where she goes to perform and record with other Ethiopian musicians. People are very moved when they hear her sing."


Kerlin-Smith will be appearing with Jordan and the other musicians who helped put the new record together at the CD release party on Friday May 4, 2007 at the Common Ground, a familiar place for Jordan who various bands have performed there over the years. "The Common Ground is a piece of history for me," he said. "Cayenne, Spunk, and Simba used to play there a lot and we had many amazing shows there in the past with lots of great dancing. This show is a way to bring back some of the old times with some new music. The band includes Tony Vacca on balafon and percussion, Jo Sallins who is a ferocious bassist, Erik Lawrence on sax and flue, who is one of my favorite musicians to work with and Helen on vocals. We'll be doing some songs from the CD and improvising others and the idea is to create music that people can dance to as well as enjoy listening to. Should be a high energy night."


Jordan's interest in world music began about 35 years ago at Bennington College under the tutelage of master drummer Milford Graves. "He opened me up to drumming and polyrhythm and a whole new world of music," said Jordan. "Before that I had been mostly interested in pop songwriting." Jordan's genre bending and blending will continue this summer when he returns to Bennington with plans to push the musical envelope once again. "The next challenge that I've set for myself is to start writing symphonic pieces starting with some pieces for string orchestra. This summer I will be working on a piece for the Sage City Symphony in Bennington. One of my goals is to bring the world music concepts that I have learned about (tonalities and rhythms) into the orchestral world. It's something completely new and different for me and a big old chance to fall flat on my face. How exciting is that?"

Vermont Sunday Magazine

"With four current active bands, two or three duos and his solo performances, Derrik Jordan is something of a one-man musical force of nature. In addition to singing, Jordan plays guitar, piano, violin, congas, steel drum, percussion and quica, a West African percussion instrument. His music reflects his wide concerns with social and environmental issues. And unlike the vast majority of singer-songwriters in the area, where it is easy to get lost in the sea of mild finger-picking guitar, introspective lyrics and sound-alike vocals, Jordan has a much broader and more interesting instrumentation and vocal range. He has a greater pop sensibility and lots of rhythm. His music and lyrics reveal optimism and speak to his interest in spirituality and the transforming experience." -Robert F. Smith, Vermont Sunday Magazine

Radio Free Brattleboro

In October, Derrik Jordan performed at the Hooker-Dunham Theater in Brattleboro to benefit the Center for Creative Healing. Jordan's "Heal the Wounded Child" could serve as the theme song for the Putney-based non-profit, which supports children in grief. "It's up to us to break the chain and/ Heal the wounded child," Jordan sings in this song that typifies the themes he explores on this disc: pain and compassion and redemption. His voice accompanies these themes well, sounding sympathetic, as does the music, which caresses his words with a gentle touch. Bassist Tom "T-Bone" Wolk co-produced the disc masterfully with Jordan, creating an amalgam where new age meets pop. Jordan opened his set emphatically with "Just Another No News Day," a polemic against our indifference to the long list of social ills infecting the world. This theme would have dragged down the proceedings if it weren't for the wry sarcasm of his lyrics and his upbeat delivery.


Later in the set, he played "Black n' Blues," describing a chance encounter with a former lover: "You can't hide the truth looking down at your shoes/ I know the pain goes deeper than the bruise," Jordan sings, acknowledging the complex acceptance of an abusive relationship. Jordan succeeds as a lyricist when he addresses the political through the personal. On a side note about the show, Jordan revealed his musical genius on the electric violin, as he tapped out a beat on the instrument's wooden body, which then replayed on a continuous loop-tape; he then plucked out a bass line, which he added to the tape-loop with a click on a foot pedal; he then bowed some long notes, and click added those to the background sound; short, staccato bows followed, and click, they repeated, until he had about 15 tracks dubbed one over another playing back simultaneously and in perfect rhythm and harmony to create a one-man electronic band. Brilliant! Unfortunately, expecting a miracle does not expose this side of Jordan's musical prowess, so you'll have to check him out live (or wait until he releases a disc of solo electric violin pieces) to experience it. -Bill Baue, Radio Free Brattleboro

Valley Advocate

"Would you believe that a songwriter from Putney, Vermont has written a hit song for Angela Bofill and has had some of his material praised by artists like Stevie Wonder?" -The Valley Advocate

Northeast Performer

"...sit back, grab that special someone, light the candles...this is radio-ready rock that's done so well it's gonna topple the Michael Boltons and the Peter Ceteras. I wanted to hate it but it's just done too well." -Northeast Performer

Brattleboro Reformer

"At one gig, a woman yelled, "Play something less thought provoking!" - The Brattleboro Reformer

The Berkshire Eagle

"As heard on his first full-length CD, "Expecting A Miracle", Jordan plays a Stevie Wonder-influenced brand of pop-folk or 'blue-eyed' soul. Like Wonder, Jordan couches some pretty straightforwardly simplistic, positive messages in catchy R&B and Latin-influenced tunes, and he has the voice to pull them off. " -Seth Rogovoy, Berkshire Eagle

Brattleboro Reformer



Derrik Jordan has been composing songs for a very long time, many of which reflect his deep concern for the environment. His brand new CD "Touch The Earth" is a rare document that can be heard both as a concept album and a career retrospective. "I have been writing songs since 1970 and one of my major themes has been nature and environmentalism," explained the Putney resident. "I thought it might be a good idea to include the best ones on a CD." Area music fans will recognize songs such as the sprightly soul/funk "Love To Spare," the reggae-tinged "Killing The Country," and the rhythmic title track from two of Jordan's former bands, the popular Spunk and Cayenne, groups that, in their heyday, had folks dancing up a storm at The Common Ground.


The organic collection took more than a year to grow to fruition. Originally, Jordan envisioned a record where he played all of the parts, a la one of his musical inspirations, Stevie Wonder. But as the project progressed, Jordan's vision expanded. "I kept wanting to hear things that I couldn't play, like horns and didgeridoo. So I created arrangements that incorporated these elements and invited my friends (such as T-Bone Wolk, Johnny Yuma, Sean McLoughlin, Nebulai, and The Mighty Simba Horns) to join in." The versatile Jordan added vocals, violin, bass, flute, mandolin, djembe, steel pan and more than 20 other instruments.


At a recent performance at the Brattleboro Commons, Jordan and his Sundog Revolutionary Orchestra (actually Dan DeWalt on trombone, accordion, steel drum, keyboards and bass along with Johnny Yuma on drums), performed with dexterity and exuberance both old and new originals that had feet tapping and hips shaking. "Touch The Earth" (available through deftly blends '70s style soul with flourishes of world beat -afro-pop, calypso-soca, samba, along with some infectious all-American funk. Lyrically, Jordan takes the high road, devoting his prayer-like anthems to his concerns about the degradation of environment.


Some of the new compositions were directly inspired by Jordan's interactions with Chief Phil Crazybull, a full blood Lakota medicine man who has recently been elected to be the international chief of his people. "I had the very good fortune to meet him and work with him here in Putney where I am part of a traditional sweat lodge. I had the opportunity to do hanbleca with him, which is the ancient Lakota vision quest. It is a powerful ceremony where after some preparation you go out in the woods by yourself for four days and four nights without food or water ... You get a lot of time to think about your life and about what's important and not so important to you." Two songs on the CD, "Indigenous" and "Standing Prayer" come directly out of Jordan's vision quest experience. The Bennington Middle School chorus performed "Standing Prayer" as part of its spring concert. "They did a very enthusiastic job of it, too," Jordan said. "It seems to be getting a really strong response from people who hear it. I can't say that I understand why that is really, except that maybe it's just a song of the moment, something that people are already feeling inside themselves but can't put into words. It's a song about longing to be connected to all life on earth."


The part-time music teacher, record producer and political activist has a number of future projects in development. "I've got literally seven CD's planned. I've almost finished with one that features my electric violin playing with some great local musicians in improvisational duet settings. This winter I'll be working on a double CD of my best Brazilian flavored compositions, 23 sambas and bossa novas," he said. Somehow, Jordan finds the time to play improvisational, indigenous music with Natural History, as well as with area newgrass mainstays The Stockwell Brothers, a wedding band, the horn-fueled Simba, as well as the aforementioned Sundog Revolutionary Orchestra, who will be backing Jordan at his CD release party Friday night at The Loft in Brattleboro. The tireless singer added, "Did I mention that I'm married and have three kids?"

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