Learn vocal tips on voice production and presentation from a vocal jazz legend NEA Master Sheila Jordan!
Sheila Jordan is not only one of the premier singers in jazz, she is also in demand worldwide for her stimulating vocal workshops. A superb scat singer, Sheila received the Jazz Masters Award 2012 from the National Endowment for the Arts – the highest honor in jazz music in America. Upon moving to New York City in the early ’50s, Jordan sang in clubs and at jam sessions with some of the city’s jazz giants, including Charles Mingus, Herbie Nichols, and Charlie "Bird" Parker. She also studied with the renowned Lennie Tristano. In 1952, she married Parker’s pianist, Duke Jordan. Ten years later, she made her acclaimed first recording, showing her vocal finesse on a ten-plus minute version of “You Are My Sunshine” on George Russell’s album The Outer View. Thanks to Russell, she released her first album, Portrait of Sheila, on Blue Note, the first female vocalist to record for the label.
Sheila will offer vocal jazz wisdom and stories of her life in jazz, accompanied by Yoko Miwa on piano. If you'd like to avail yourself of Sheila's advice, bring a lead sheet and be prepared to present a song. If you plan to sing, do prepare beforehand as you will get more out of Sheila's wisdom that way.
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 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. Her preference to the bass and voice set led to another remarkable collaboration with bassist Cameron Brown, whom she has been performing with all over the world for more than ten years so far and they have released the live albums “I’ve Grown Accustomed to the Bass” and “Celebration”. 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.