A self-taught tenor saxophonist (and activist) from Chicago, Clifford Jordan was underrated and not a flashy type but he enjoyed a long career in jazz, traveling all over the world and lending his hand to various non-profits.
While still in Chicago he played R&B, as well as bop with Max Roach and Sonny Stitt. In '57 he moved to NYC, and cut his first of three albums for Blue Note, the classic Blowing In From Chicago, co-led with Sun Ra's tenor man John Gilmore and featuring members of the Jazz Messengers. In the late '50s he worked in groups led by Horace Silver and JJ Johnson.
In the early '60s he played with Kenny Dorham and Roach, as well as with Paul Chambers, Sonny Clark, Sahib Shihab and others. He was in the Charles Mingus sextet with Eric Dolphy that toured Europe in '64. In the late '60s he was living in Europe and toured Africa and the Middle East with Randy Weston. In '68 he started his own production company and record label, Frontier Records, producing records for Pharaoh Sanders, Ed Blackwell and others. He also worked in the '60s with Lloyd Price and James Brown.
In '72 he played Lester Young in the stage show Lady Day and later in the decade worked with Richard Davis, Cedar Walton, Dizzy Reese and Charles Tolliver, and in the '80s & '90s with Art Farmer, Slide Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Andrew Hill, Carmen McRae, Mal Waldron and his own big band.
His long career saw him release many acclaimed records on Blue Note, Riverside, Strata East, Muse, SteepleChase, DIW and many more labels of quality. He died of lung cancer at 61.