Chris Nordman is a pianist and keyboardist who has performed with a lot of artists over the years, while also leading his own group since the late 1970s. He is based in both Michigan and Florida, and performs often in both states. His latest release, High Wire, features some wonderful takes on well-known jazz, soul and pop songs. The trio is made up of Chris Nordman on piano, electric piano and organ; Ward Dumigan on upright bass and electric bass; and Joe Adcock on drums.
The album kicks off with a sweet rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” a song from Wonder’s 1976 double album Songs In The Key Of Life. Chris Nordman’s playing has a passionate and cheerful sound from the start, as he eases in. Then before you know it things begin to get really cool, with some funky touches, as the piano work becomes even freer and more fluid, and livelier. A little more than halfway through, the song comes to a momentary halt, and then eases back in with a nice lead by Ward Dumigan on bass. Before the end, Joe Adcock gets a chance to let loose on drums with a series of short solos. That’s followed by “High Wire,” the album’s title track. As with Erroll Garner’s original, it is the bass that gets this version going, and it isn’t long before things are popping in this wonderful and fun rendition. This is a piece that feels designed to give a pianist a chance to show his or her talent, and Chris Nordman does an excellent job with it.
Chris Nordman delivers a totally delicious rendition of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” which had been a hit for Cannonball Adderley (and then for The Buckinghams). I particularly love the funky edge this version has. This track is one of the album’s highlights for me, in part because of its ability to sweep away our daily concerns and troubles. Plus, there is a really good and interesting lead on bass. Things really start to build from there, with Chris Nordman a total master of the keyboard, making it bend to his every desire. In addition, this track features a groovy drum solo. What more could you want? That’s followed by “Cold Duck Time,” which simply feels so damn good, like close friends gathering for a drink or two. It has that kind of smooth vibe, and there is plenty of joy in the playing. Music from a world we are eager to have exist again. That sense of joy continues with the Chris Nordman Trio’s rendition of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny,” with Chris’ hands flying over the piano at times. I love that sense of freedom this track has. In fact, at one point I want him to go even further, to just go wild. But the other musicians deserve a chance to show their chops, and this track features a section with Ward Dumigan leading on bass, and a little later a section with Joe Adcock leading on drums, an unusual and cool part.
Chris Nordman’s rendition of Horace Silver’s “The Preacher” comes strutting in, and is kind of bouncy and totally delightful. And during that bass lead, you might want to add your own finger snaps. That’s followed by the jazz standard “Blue Bossa,” which has a fairly easygoing vibe and features some really nice work on organ. Then we get “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” a song I’ve been hearing a lot lately. I suppose the appeal of this song has never lessened, but something about it is speaking to people especially now. Is it that we are all looking for a place where troubles vanish? Is it that we want to wake from this strange dream we’ve all been immersed in, to find that we’re at home among our loved ones? I don’t know, but Chris Nordman offers a pretty and thoughtful rendition here. The song itself seems to create the very place it speaks of, that place we’re yearning for. That’s followed by “Summertime.” I have mentioned this many times, but it is still true that you can never go wrong with Gershwin. This version of “Summertime” begins as you might expect it to, then takes on something of a Latin rhythm and vibe, and gets rather exciting, featuring some surprising touches on piano at moments.
When I find myself agreeing with the song title “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be,” I suppose I have to admit to getting older. But then again, seriously, things really aren’t what they used to be. Some of the changes are good, of course, and some of them aren’t. But good music is still good music, and this trio does a fine job with this song, finding that nice groove and then playing within it. I especially enjoy that lead on bass. Joe Adcock offers some playful touches on drums in the second half. That’s followed by a soulful rendition of Wilton Felder’s “Way Back Home” that ought to have you smiling before long. The album then wraps up with a cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.” It is fun, funky and groovy, and it features some excellent work on keys, as well as an energetic drum solo in the second half. Here is when Joe Adcock really gets a chance to shine, and the results are excellent. This entire track is enjoyable, but it is the drum solo that makes it another highlight for me.
See the original review at:
by George W. Harris • March 11, 2021 •
Keyboardist Chris Nordman has built a career as a sideman for the likes of Mel Torme, Della Reese and The Four Freshman, but he shows his soulful allegiances to his gigs with The Coasters, Drifters and Platters on this fun and infectious trio session with Joe Adcock/dr and Ward Dumigan/b. He mixes piano and keyboards together on some Motown style hits like a hip “Sunny” and Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” while vintage Blue Note bop is greased up on ‘The Preacher”, Watermelon and “Blue Bossa”.
The team sets a rich groove on a pair of soul jazzers, Eddie Harris’ Cold Duck Time” and Cannonball Adderley’s “Mercy, Mercy Mercy” and shows his trad feel with “Things Ain’t What They Used To BE” and “Summertime”.
Every tune is a toe tapper and will keep you keepin’ on.
Label: Self-Release "High Wire" Chris Nordman Trio
Styles: Classic Jazz
Written by Robert Silverstein
February 26, 2021 - 2:32pm EST (Rated 5 of 5 Stars)
One of the best 'feel-good' jazz albums of the year, High Wire is a great introduction to keyboardist and composer Chris Nordman. Based in Florida and Michigan, Chris is featured on the 12-track, all-instrumental sound of High Wire featuring his band Chris Nordman Trio. When I say feel good music, I mean it as this CD is primarily a jazzy sounding covers album, and what better way than to feature songs everyone knows and loves including 1960s era classics such as “Watermelon Man”, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and “Sunny”, along with covers of well-known songs like “Summertime”, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and more.
Getting off to a jumping start with the Chris Nordman Trio cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely”, the entire album makes for a fun-filled trip. Chris gets excellent back-up from his bandmates Ward Dumigan (bass) and Joe Adcock (drums).
Chris excels on all manners of keyboards including piano, electric piano and his signature Hammond organ sound. Mixed and mastered by John LaRosa, the album is well presented and sounds clear as a bell. Chris Nordman will blow away your blues on the good-time instrumental jazz sound of High Wire.
By JACK BOWERS
February 1, 2021
1,392 Views as of 3/1/2021
Time was when people retired to Florida to bask in the sunshine, play some golf and tend their backyard gardens. That was then; this is now. Pianist and organist Chris Nordman, who has roamed the world for more than half a century as a working musician and now calls Florida home, has no plans to rest on his laurels—or anything else. Instead, he has found kindred souls in bassist Ward Dumigan and drummer Joe Adcock and called on their talents to help record a new album, High Wire, to dispense the sort of funky, soulful jazz that is dearest to their hearts.
Nordman has performed with, listened to and been influenced by a wide array of celebrated artists, some of whose music he has chosen to rephrase here: Stevie Wonder, Erroll Garner, Joe Zawinul, Eddie Harris, Wilton Felder, Herbie Hancock. Sandwiched among their themes are popular standards by Harold Arlen ("Over the Rainbow") and George Gershwin ("Summertime") and jazz evergreens by Horace Silver ("The Preacher"), Kenny Dorham ("Blue Bossa") and Mercer Ellington ("Things Ain't What They Used to Be"). Nordman's trio does its best to bring out the soul and funk in each of them (yes, even "Over the Rainbow" and "Summertime," which is played as a samba or bossa; never could tell the difference).
Garner wrote the album's assertive title song, which follows the sunny opener, Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely," and precedes Zawinul's irrepressible "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy." Harris wrote "Cold Duck Time," Bobby Hebb the fairly well-known "Sunny." "The Preacher" needs no introduction for jazz aficionados, nor does "Blue Bossa." The album's standards, for some reason, are placed back-to-back, leading to "Things Ain't What They Used to Be," Felder's "Way Back Home" (on which Nordman is given credit as co-author) and Hancock's "Watermelon Man." Nordman divides his time between piano and organ much of the way, introducing the electric piano on "Way Back Home" and continuing with it on "Watermelon Man." While he has been around long enough to make his journeys across the keyboards seem intuitive and effortless, Nordman traverses no new ground; he simply does what he does, and does it well. Dumigan is a well-honed soloist too, and Adcock has his impressive moments, especially on "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," "The Preacher," "Blue Bossa" and "Watermelon Man."
Are Nordman and his trio good? Absolutely. Is the music good? That probably depends on who you ask. It is certainly plain-spoken and earnest. Some may embrace it, while others may choose to keep it at arm's length. The playlist should serve as a rather clear guide to what the trio has in mind. What matters is that Nordman and his mates are not sitting on their hands but remain busy and true to the music they love most.
(Note - the original review was written in French - this is a Google translation):
How do you recognize a classic? A popular tune, which remains in the collective memory, after having monopolized the airwaves for weeks? Classics, pianist Chris Nordman must have listened to many and, today, is strongly imbued with them.
To the point of delivering his personal version within his trio composed of Ward Dumigan on bass and drummer Joe Adcock. Some "Isn't she lovely", "Blue Bossa", "Watermelon Man", "Sunny" and other "Summertime" do you want some, here you go! The whole forms a coherent whole, with a padded and elegant swing, in which the pianist, who also plays the Hammond organ, shows great dexterity.
An album of covers, jazz and soul, modest in appearance but that should certainly not be underestimated. Played with precision but, above all, a good dose of shared pleasure. A simple little album that gives as much pleasure as the musicians had to record it (that can be understood!)
A fun way to revisit your personal memories (because you must have crossed the road of these classics at some point or to another) and which transports the listener to another place, a dreamed, fantasized past, a nostalgic madeleine de Proust which revives memories of happy times far from the mess that has turned our lives upside down for a year.
Chris Nordman - High Wire 82
O's Notes: Veteran pianist Chris Nordman leads a trio with bassist Ward Dumigan and drummer Joe Adcock for High Wire. It is a culmination of Nordman’s musical career spanning five decades and many genres. He places the piano at the core of these refreshed classics. Among the best are “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, “Cold Duck Time”, “Watermelon Man”, Sunny” and “Blue Bossa” with fine solos across the band. This is an enjoyable listen.
D. Oscar Groomes
O's Place Jazz Magazine
P.O. Box 38430
Charlotte, NC 28278
CHRIS NORDMAN TRIO/High Wire: If it wasn't for the chops, you could easily mistake this easy going set for a gift shop record based on the set list and the vibe. You would miss the point. This crew sets the tone for jazz in central Florida and some of their playing might be informed by who they have to play to, but they have been around the block and have more than enough skills to pay the bills. They also know how and when to cut loose, which they do so well. A solid slice of jazz for good times.
(Ranch Guy Records)
Chris Nordman is a lifelong musician who has traveled across the United States, performing with artists of all stripes and styles. Now based in Central Florida, the Jazz pianist originally hails from Michigan. There he became schooled in the Motor City sound and played with many Motown musicians over the years. He’s backed some of the biggest names in music history including; Chuck Berry, Bob Hope, Mel Torme and The Platters.
The talented performer and arranger got his first taste of the music world as a child, performing in church and school. For a number of years Nordman attended the acclaimed Michigan school, Interlochen Center for the Arts. Growing up with a music teacher for a father, he had endless opportunities to explore sound. A multi-instrumentalist, in addition to his skills on the keys Chris is an accomplished cellist.
Under normal circumstances Chris Nordman is gigging, either with his own band or as a pianist for a variety of musicians. Of course, nothing about the past 12 months qualifies as ‘normal circumstances.’ Locked down like the rest of the world, the artist decided to make productive use of the downtime. If he couldn’t get a live sound in the clubs, he decided he was going to do so in the recording studio. Hence, a new album was born.
“High Wire” is the debut album from the Chris Nordman Trio, released worldwide to all major streaming services on September 18, 2020. The 12 track record is the sound of three immensely talented, seasoned professionals delivering a fantastic set of live Jazz. Chris does double duty on piano and organ. Bassist Ward Dumigan expertly grooves with and without frets on 4, 5 and 6 strings. Meanwhile drummer Joe Adcock moves effortlessly through modern jams and old-school classic grooves. Each of the three fills this set with a perfect combination of disciplined technique and wildly creative improvisation.
From the cool instrumental take on Stevie Wonder’s classic “Isn’t She Lovely” to a beautiful slow Jazz interpretation of “Over the Rainbow,” the Chris Nordman trio takes on classics with both reverence and a healthy dose of creative license. Their extended jam on the Joe Zawinul masterpiece (made famous by Cannonball Adderly) “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” is a real high point. They give George Gershwin’s ‘Porgy and Bess’ standard “Summertime” a cool Bossa Nova infused groove. And their take on Duke Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be” has the perfect swing.
From beginning to end, “High Wire” feels like an afternoon Jazz brunch at your favorite cafe, or maybe a cool night in a dimly lit and smoky club. Remember way back in 2019 when we could all go out and safely enjoy such pleasures? We will again. But until then, the Chris Nordman Trio has a private gig lined up for you. So carve out an hour of your busy day, dim the lights, pour a glass of your favorite libation and cue up “High Wire” for a chill be-bop escape.