Updated: May 11
In addition to performing with some of the top musicians, Marqueal Jordan is a highly sought-after saxophonist and vocalist. His previous bands included Fat Time, a critically acclaimed local original band, and Starcandy, a spin-off group. The playing and singing of Marqueal were so impressive to Smooth Jazz artist Brian Culbertson that he offered him a job in his touring band. Marqueal accompanied Brian worldwide, appeared in two DVDs, and contributed to four albums over the next decade. His exposure gave him the confidence and the desire to pursue a solo career. I was blessed to have the opportunity to interview this talented man of music. Here's what he shared.
Hi Marqueal; thank you for your time. I would like to know a little more about you. How would you describe your story? How did you come to decide to pursue a career in music? How much time do you have? (laughs) I am one of the few people born in Los Angeles, not a transplant. I'm a child of 1970s and early 80's LA. It has shaped my worldview, and I will always consider it home. However, my family moved to Kansas City, KS, in 1984 due to the downsizing of the US Auto Industry. My father worked for General Motors for 40 years and had to move where the jobs were. After high school in Kansas City and graduating from the University of Kansas, I moved to Chicago in 1995 and never left. I am an amalgamation of those three cities and cultures. The thread that connects all these places is music.
Music has been a part of my life since I walked around with a Fisher Price toy record player. Pop's record collection was my refuge. I used to read liner notes and credits on albums religiously. As most African American families did back then, my parents made my sisters and me take music lessons. They took piano; I started on drums at five years old. That was extremely short-lived, but by age 8, I knew I wanted to play tenor saxophone because of John Coltrane. Since the school I attended didn't have any saxophones, I played clarinet for four years until I attended junior high school, where I finally started on tenor at age 12. I knew by then that music was what I wanted to do. I was in all the high school bands – marching, concert, jazz, and orchestra. I also made beats and played keyboards with some of my fellow California transplants in a Pacific Sounds hip-hop group.
College is where I started getting more serious musically, taking private saxophone lessons, performing in the KU Jazz Ensemble, and a cover band. After graduation, Chicago provided a fertile ground to improve as a musician at a more forgiving pace than LA or New York. While working during the day, I played any gig I could at night and on weekends. A college friend and I started a band called Fat Time, in which I eventually started singing and getting my frontman chops together.
That band lasted for seven years. After we disbanded, I became an in-demand freelance saxophonist and vocalist for the next six years until fate intervened. I was recommended to Brian Culbertson by his Drummer, Chris Miskel. He came to check me out at a club in early 2008, and after hearing me, he offered me a position in his touring band. That changed my life. Since then, I've toured the world, performed with legends and musical peers, and become a solo artist with three albums under my belt. That is my story thus far (laughs). But greatness awaits.
Marqueal, would you be able to choose any one feature that you find most enjoyable about being a saxophonist if you had to choose? Playing the saxophone is the closest instrument to emulating the human voice, giving me unlimited options to express myself emotionally. Plus, the ladies love it (laughs). By playing this instrument, I am.
Awesome! So, in your role as a musician, what are some of your challenges?
The pandemic was treacherous for all of us in the arts. When you're faced with the possibility of your entire industry disappearing, it's as real as it gets. Thank God for me making it through so far. Regarding other challenges, it is a cyclical business as far as work is concerned, so you must be wise and plan accordingly to persevere through the down periods. And obviously, the biggest challenge is to work on your craft and improve constantly. That is a never-ending journey.
What are your favorite music genres?
I love Jazz, Soul, Funk, Rhythm & Blues, Blues, Hip Hop, Pop, Rock, and good music that you can feel. Genres are only suitable for marketing, and most artists/musicians chafe at being put in a category. There are only two kinds of music; good and bad. And even that is subjective.
How has your style been described by people who have heard your music?
My musical style has been described as "Grover Washington meets Maxwell." Others describe my musical style as cool, smooth, sensual, and soulful. As I was touring, I met an author, Tonya Comer, who said she could hear the influence of John Coltrane in my playing, which humbled me greatly.
Among all the saxophonists, who has most influenced you?
John Coltrane. He is the Don of tenor saxophone, the reason I play, and the standard I want to reach. My favorite saxophonist is Branford Marsalis. He represents everything I would love to be as a player and artist. I am also heavily influenced by Grover, Kirk Whalum, Maceo Parker, Kenny Garrett, and David Sanborn.
Over the years, who have you worked with?
I have truly been blessed. I've worked with legends who are longer with us, like George Duke, Aretha Franklin, and Al Jarreau. I've also worked with Oleta Adams, Patti Austin, Jonathan Butler, Floetry, Larry Graham, Buddy Guy, The Isley Brothers, Kenny Lattimore, Maysa Leak, Marcus Miller, Mike Phillips, Eric Roberson, Jill Scott, Isaiah Sharkey, Patches Stewart, and Sy Smith.
How do you mentally prepare for public opinion (whether positive or negative) when preparing for a show?
I strive always to be mentally and emotionally connected to the show I'm about to perform so I can give my all and eventually be at peace with whatever response or opinion the audience gives me. Once you've performed, it's ultimately out of your hands how the public perceives it. The reality is you're never as bad or as good as you think you are in a particular performance. The key is to never get too high or low on yourself and not to be swayed too much by public opinion or perception.
How would you advise new musicians entering this industry?
There are so many challenges to success and longevity in this industry. The most important things I advise are to have your business in order (publishing, incorporating, etc.), have a lean but reliable team that understands your artistic goals, have a thick skin, and build your brand yourself. If you build it, they…whoever "they" are…will come.
Other than the saxophone, what other instruments do you play?
Aside from the saxophone, I am a vocalist and a percussionist. I play keyboards only well enough to compose music.
Do you currently have any singles or albums out? Could you tell me about your latest album/song and what inspired it? Is it already available, and where can people purchase it?
My latest album, All We Have Are Moments, is my best work. It was a labor of love that was started during the summer of 2020 in the early stages of the pandemic. Because of frustrations, creative droughts, and artistic doubt, it was finished in February 2022. It required me to dig deep and make sure that the finished product was something I could truly feel and that I could stand proudly behind every note I played and sang. The title and concept of the album speak to the reality that life is fleeting and uncertain, and the only way to truly live to the fullest is to give your all to each moment you are blessed to experience. The lead single, "Sistas," featuring Brian Culbertson, is a feel-good jam that spent an amazing 12 weeks on Billboard's Smooth Jazz Singles Chart and has been in the Top 5 for a month. It also spent one week at Number One on the Mediabase Smooth AC Chart. It's my breakthrough hit. The album is available on all digital outlets for download or streaming. Those desiring an autographed CD can order it from my website at marquealjordan.com
Do you have any upcoming shows?
In 2023, I will focus solely on my Moments Tour, which starts in January on the Smooth Jazz Cruise.
Are there any tips you can give to aspiring musicians?
I have three tips. One, practice incessantly while you are young. The foundation you build during those years will carry you forward for the rest of your career. And when you get older, you have a different free time to practice. Two, be yourself. Influences and idols are necessary to improve, but the world is waiting for you to arrive. In the words of Steve Arrington, nobody can be you but you. Three, do it because you love it. Your love for music and being a musician is the thing that will carry you through when times get tough and the grind gets hard.
What's the difference between Pepsi and Coca-Cola? Don't they taste the same?
That's easy to answer. Pepsi is sweeter, too sweet. And Coca-Cola is stronger. As you can see, I'm a Coca-Cola dude!
Website: Marqueal Jordan.com
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Unlimited Amazon.com: Gina Sedman: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle THE INDIE POST | MARQUEAL JORDAN | FEBRUARY 01, 2023 ISSUE VOL. 1: Sedman, Gina: 9798374210958: Amazon.com: Books
Album link: open.spotify.com/album/0smdqyg37o4BTYbC5coqVx
Record Label: October 23rd Music
Official Website: marquealjordan.com
All Photo Credits: M Dayton and Gethin Taos