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Sheila Jordan

Sheila Jordan is an NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jeanette Dawson, 18 November 1928, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Raised in poverty in Pennsylvania’s coal-mining country, Jordan began singing as a child and by the time she was in her early teens was working semi-professionally in Detroit clubs. Her first great influence was Charlie Parker and, indeed, most of her influences have been instrumentalists rather than singers.

Working chiefly with black musicians, she met with disapproval from the white community but persisted with her career. She was a member of a vocal trio, Skeeter, Mitch And Jean (she was Jean), who sang versions of Parker’s solos in a manner akin to that of the later Lambert, Hendricks And Ross. After moving to New York in the early 50s, she married Parker’s pianist, Duke Jordan, and studied with Charles Mingus and Lennie Tristano, but it was not until the early 60s that she made her first recordings.

One of these was under her own name, the other was The Outer View with George Russell, which featured a famous 10-minute version of "You Are My Sunshine". In the mid-60s her work encompassed jazz liturgies sung in churches and extensive club work, but her appeal was narrow even within the confines of jazz.

By the late 70s jazz audiences had begun to understand her uncompromising style a little more and her popularity increased - as did her appearances on record, which included albums with pianist Steve Kuhn, whose quartet she joined, and an album, Home, comprising a selection of Robert Creeley’s poems set to music and arranged by Steve Swallow.

A 1983 duo set with bassist Harvie Swartz, Old Time Feeling, comprises several of the standards Jordan regularly features in her live repertoire, while 1990’s Lost And Found pays tribute to her bebop roots. Both sets display her unique musical trademarks, such as the frequent and unexpected sweeping changes of pitch which still tend to confound an uninitiated audience.

Entirely non-derivative, Jordan is one of only a tiny handful of jazz singers who fully deserve the appellation and for whom no other term will do.


Radio & Podcasts

New Releases Plus Birthday Shoutouts To Timeless Jazz Women Going Full Swing

Read "New Releases Plus Birthday Shoutouts To Timeless Jazz Women Going Full Swing" reviewed by Mary Foster Conklin

This broadcast includes new releases from Sarah McKenzie, Michael Weiss, Susan Alcorn, Vanessa Perica plus a second posthumous recording from Nora York, with major birthday shoutouts to Joni Mitchell (80!), Betty Bryant (92!), Sheila Jordan (95!), Bertha Hope (87!), Lani Hall (78!), Jen Hodge, Rene Marie, Miho Hazama, Kitty Margolis and Samara Joy, among others. Thanks for listening and please support the artists you hear by seeing them live and online. Purchase their music so they can continue to distract, ...

Radio & Podcasts

Why Jazz: Part 1

Read "Why Jazz: Part 1" reviewed by Monk Rowe

Season 2 of the Jazz Backstory podcast begins with a review of the devotion to the art required for a successful career. After the inspiration and exploration, what makes a young jazz musician stick with it? Sheila Jordan, Don Alias, Diane Reeves and others share their thoughts. ...

Album Review

Sheila Jordan: Live at Mezzrow

Read "Live at Mezzrow" reviewed by Angelo Leonardi

Inossidabile, leggendaria Sheila. Un anno fa usciva lo splendido inedito del 1960 con la Jordan agli inizi di carriera www.allaboutjazz.com/comes-love-lost-session-1960-sheila-jordan-capri-records e 6 decenni dopo la cantante è ancora on stage, in bella forma all'età di 93 anni. Com'è noto Sheila Jordan iniziò a cantare tardivamente—poco dopo i 30—e per motivi famigliari sviluppò la sua carriera artistica dalla seconda metà dei settanta, quando aveva superato i quarantacinque. Nella maturità ci ha regalato le sue cose migliori, in un ...

Radio & Podcasts

New Releases Plus Jazz Master Sheila Jordan Celebrates Another Solar Journey

Read "New Releases Plus Jazz Master Sheila Jordan Celebrates Another Solar Journey" reviewed by Mary Foster Conklin

This broadcast presents new releases from from Kate Hamann, Vanessa Racci, Sam Taylor, The Ostara Project, Sarah Elizabeth Charles, Kris Allen, plus a new single from Abbie Finn, with birthday shoutouts to lyricist Marilyn Bergman, Jazz Master Sheila Jordan, Cynthia Hilts, Nioka Workman, Cindy Blackman, Marianne Solivan, Jen Hodge and Johnny Mercer among others. Thanks for listening and please support the artists you hear by purchasing their music during this time of pandemic so they can continue to distract, comfort, ...

Bailey's Bundles

September 2022: Jazz Child

Read "September 2022: Jazz Child" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

Sheila Jordan Live At Mezzrow's Cellar Music 2022 Nonagenarian Sheila Jordan is a jazz singer enjoying an incandescent twilight. In late 2021, Jordan appeared on Roseanna Vitro's Sing A Song of Bird (Skyline Records, 2021) singing a song contra-composed in her honor from Charlie Parker's “Cheryl," -"Sheila, Jazz Child." Jordan, along with drummer Roy Haynes, remains the last living connection to the famous alto saxophonist, who is generously represented on Jordan's Live at Mezzrow. ...

Radio & Podcasts

Mary Lou Williams, Sheila Jordan & CeCe Gable

Read "Mary Lou Williams, Sheila Jordan & CeCe Gable" reviewed by Joe Dimino

The voice and range of Reno-based veteran jazz singer CeCe Gable kicks off the 760th Episode of Neon Jazz with music from her new album Next Year's Song. We follow that up with music from an inspiration to many in the jazz world, Sheila Jordan and a song from Live at Mezzrow. More music from talents including Evan Drybread, Mark Winkler and Deanne Matley keep the hour moving. Also, we feature new music from Deanna Witkowski and pay homage to ...

Album Review

Sheila Jordan: Live At Mezzrow

Read "Live At Mezzrow" reviewed by Pierre Giroux

Sheila Jordan is a living jazz legend. Since coming to New York City in 1950 at the encouragement of Charlie Parker, she is one of, if not the last, living link to a time and a place in the jazz world that is the subject of hagiography, myth and occasionally reality. With a voice that is uniquely her own, it is possible that in the course of a single song interpretation, Jordan's voice can sound morose and honeyed, supple and ...

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Live at Mezzrow

Cellar Records


It's My Turn to Color...

Origin Records


Comes Love: Lost...

Capri Records


Sing a Song of Bird

Skyline Records


Ode to the Road

HighNote Records


Lucky to Be Me

Abeat Records


Bebop Lives (Boplicity)

From: It's My Turn to Color Now
By Sheila Jordan


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