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Album Review

Honored as an NEA Jazz Master in 2012, Sheila Jordan set the standard for singing with minimal accompaniment. Since 1988, she has made a number of recordings with the backing of bass alone, first utilizing Harvie S (aka Harvie Swartz) and later Cameron Brown. This 2012 release is a previously unissued set from 1990 with Harvie S, their fourth collaboration together to appear on disc. Although Jordan doesn't have a large voice, she has an impeccable instrument, with a potent gift for melody, rhythm, and improvising, backed by a bassist who sublimely provides an equally inventive backdrop without overshadowing her. Jordan's superb setting of "Yesterdays" takes it into new territory, adding a Native American flavor at one point. She showcases Harvie for a couple of choruses in their brilliant interpretation of "Better Than Anything." The emotional impact of her moving take of "You Don't What Love Is" is due in part to her great use of space to increase its dramatic effect, along with Harvie's arco playing in the introduction and deliberate pizzicato backing. Jordan's gift for improvising new lyrics is on display during her riotous medley of Fats Waller songs, combining a rapid-fire "Honeysuckle Rose" and comical, deliberate "Ain't Misbehavin'," with the bassist engaging in a wild avant-gardist arco solo to connect the two pieces. "Lazy Afternoon" is yet another standard that she raises to a new level with her ability to make a well-known song her very own, again adding a Native American-like chant. There's never a dull moment in this lively set, as Sheila Jordan and Harvie S captivate their audience throughout the entire evening.


Born: 18 November 1928 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of the most consistently creative of all jazz singers, Sheila Jordan has a relatively small voice, but has done the maximum with her instrument. She is one of the few vocalists who can improvise logical lyrics (which often rhyme), she is a superb scat singer, and is also an emotional interpreter of ballads. Yet despite her talents, Jordan spent much of the 1960s and '70s working at a conventional day job. She studied piano when she was 11 and early on, sang vocalese in a vocal group. Jordan moved...
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Yesterdays, Sheila Jordan
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