Clifford Jordan was born in Chicago in 1931. A self-taught musician, his love of jazz had him performing in his home town until the late 1950's, when he moved to New York. His first album was appropriately titled Blowing in from Chicago, and Horace Silver and Art Blakey.
In the 60's, his range broadened, as he played with Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Kenny Dorham, Lloyd Price, and James Brown. He toured Europe as a soloist and conducted his own music for radio and studio orchestras in 1966. A year later, he was toured West Africa and the Middle East for the U.S. State Department with Randy Weston. 1968 saw Cliff forming Frontier Records, through which he produced albums for Wilbur Ware, Pharoah Sanders, Cecil Payne, Charles Brackeen, Ed Blackwell and their groups.
Cliff Jordan was very interested in public work, and he became music consultant for Bed-Sty Youth in Action and Pratt Institute. He was the music director of the first Dancemobile in 1968 and faculty member at Henry Street Settlement.
1969 was time of change throughout the world, and Europe was becoming a hotbed for American jazz. This led Clifford Jordan to move with his wife and daughter from Brooklyn to Belgium. That year, he played there as well as throughout Africa. But the pull of the States was strong, and he returned in 1970, and started leading his own groups in clubs across the country. He also performed with Cedar Walton's trio [Billy Higgins, Sam Jones]. He played the role of Lester Young in Lady Day: A Musical Tragedy at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1972.