Instantly recognizable for her sophisticated and spiritual sound, saxophonist Jordan Pettay has been described by JazzTimes as “the sort of soloist that can translate a spiritual journey into musical terms.” She has performed with many of the world’s premier jazz, R&B and hip-hop artists including Christian McBride, Adrian Younge, Lizzo and Grammy-nominated vocalist Nicole Zuraitis. She resides in New York City, where she appears regularly as a freelance artist, educator and leader of The Jordan Pettay Quartet. Her recent debut album, First Fruit (2019), was co-produced by Christian Sands and features a blend of jazz, R&B and gospel influences.
Finding herself comfortable in a variety of settings, Jordan has appeared on three NPR Tiny Desk Concerts in the last two years with hip-hop producers Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed (A Tribe Called Quest) and with the indie rock band Foxing, as a featured soloist. In 2016 she appeared with rapper-singer Lizzo, performing her hit single “Good As Hell” on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.
With her faith being an underlying inspiration to her life and music, Jordan’s debut album, First Fruit, is a devotional project featuring several reimagined hymn arrangements and songs meant to convey gratitude and love towards God. According to Downbeat Magazine,
“One of the bandleader’s strengths is her obvious fluency in deep-fried Southern gospel, and her masterful ability to fuse a sanctified sound with other distinct styles—r&b and jazz, in particular.”
“Pettay’s evocative musicality, at once refined and raw, makes 200-year-old Christian music standards, like ‘I Am Thine O Lord,' feel fresh.”
As a child growing up in Ft. Worth, Texas, Jordan drew early inspiration from the classic jazz recordings of Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington, as well as the gospel music she was immersed in. She sought to attain the musical depth of the jazz masters while maintaining the raw and sacred feeling of the church. In high school Jordan attended Booker T. Washington Performing Arts High School in Dallas, and in 2008 received a full scholarship to attend The Juilliard School in New York City. In her fourth year, she was awarded the first Gerry and Franca Mulligan Scholarship.
At Juilliard, Jordan was mentored by iconic New York saxophonists Ron Blake and Steve Wilson while traveling Europe, South America, Asia and Australia as a guest clinician and performer. Since graduating with her Master’s degree in 2014, Jordan performs and teaches around the New York area, making regular appearances at top NYC venues including Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Ginny’s Supper Club, Smalls and Smoke Jazz Club. Jordan also enjoys being an in-demand saxophonist for jazz vespers and religious services around the New York area, often playing and arranging music for St. Peter’s Church, Redeemer Presbyterian, Marble Church and Fort Washington Collegiate Church.
As an educator, she is on faculty at Borough of Manhattan Community College (a CUNY school), Nyack College, and is an instructor for the Wells-Fargo Jazz for Teens program at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, New Jersey.