February 2008

Sheila Jordan
February 16, 2008 Upstairs Montréal
a report by Ori Dagan

Singing the well-loved standards and doing their best to recall the resonant echoes of yesteryear, singers are a dime a dozen in the jazz world. Genuine jazz singers, however, are considerably rarer treasures, especially those who can be compared to the greatest of jazz instrumentalists. Still youthful, exuberant and every bit as musical as ever at 79, veteran Sheila Jordan is by definition a jazz singer and arguably one of the genre’s most valuable players.

She befriended Charlie Parker as a teen and thanks to his encouragement pursued the art of jazz singing. Later on she studied harmony with avant-garde pianist Lennie Tristano, invented her signature bass-voice duet in the early 1950s and went on to record the very first vocal LP on Bluenote Records, the masterful Portrait of Sheila. After keeping a day job and recording only sporadically for decades, she began touring the globe in the 1980’s and hasn’t stopped since. On May 18th she will be honoured with the Marylou Williams Women in Jazz Lifetime Service Award at the Kennedy Center.

“I think of myself as a jazz messenger, that’s what I do,” she explained to me recently. “I teach it, I sing it, and I support the music. That’s what I was born to do and I never expected that I would get this far in my career. It’s shocking to me that I have come this far. I never expected to record, I never expected any of this. It’s amazing!”

Amazing: a fitting word to describe this no-nonsense hip chick who swings and scats like only herself; who can imbue a ballad with exceptional depth and possesses a rare knack to improvise lyrics that rhyme with a sublime sense of time. Last night she finished a two-night engagement at Montréal’s premier jazz spot, Upstairs, joined by some of her favourite Canadian musicians: Steve Amirault on piano, Kieran Overs on bass and André White on drums. All three provided exceptional support and indulged the lady’s spontaneous brand of humour. In one of the most hilarious moments of the night, she beckoned the drummer to take a scat solo, proving that “if you give any jazz instrumentalist the chance, they will take a great scat solo, and it never starts with Shoobee Doobee.”

In typical Sheila Jordan fashion, one couldn’t guess where she might take any given song, not even her. “You know, what makes this so much fun is that we are enjoying what we do, and that we’re saying exactly what we are feeling. It doesn’t have to be so intellectual...and I just proved that!” She had the audience laughing out loud at least a dozen times in the last set alone. The short-lived two-night stint of “socialized medicine”, as she put it, was recorded and will be released in future on the Canadian record label Justin Time Records.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Ori Dagan
• • • • • •
The Live Music Report
• •

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2008