9:42am

Fri November 27, 2009
Piano Jazz

Sheila Jordan On Piano Jazz

On this Piano Jazz, singer Sheila Jordan sits down with guest host Jon Weber to talk about her early career in Detroit, her bebop vocal group — Skeeter, Mitch and Jean (she was Jean) — and chasing Charlie Parker (whom she calls her "big brother") from gig to gig. On her opening number, with pianist Steve Kuhn, Jordan swings through the Oscar Brown Jr., tune, "Humdrum Blues." Her vocal style is strongly rooted in bebop, a form she honed by imitating solos by Parker, who once told Jordan, "You've got million dollar ears, kid!"

Jordan continues with the Ray Nobel standard, "The Touch of Your Lips," which she learned while studying with Lennie Tristano. Jordan recalls Charles Mingus and Max Roach sitting in with Tristano's students, and Mingus later inviting her to join in the unusual duet arrangement of bass and vocals. Jordan is known as one of the most creative singers in jazz and is one of a few vocalists able to also improvise full lyrical ideas over a tune.

Next is the Bobby Timmons and Oscar Brown Jr., tune, "Dat Dere." The song reflects a child's constant curiosity, and Jordan originally recorded it as a dedication to her young daughter. The childlike lyric is very well suited to Jordan's bebop interpretation, and guest host Weber credits Jordan, saying "that was masterfully done. When you solo ... I can tell that the blueprint of the song is always clear to you."

Jordan takes another soaring scat solo on "Confirmation" and exchanges vocals with Steve Kuhn on his composition "The Zoo." Weber and Jordan close the session with a duet on the thoroughly autobiographical, "Sheila's Blues." Jordan says she wrote the tune by compiling answers to all of the questions she received while working in clubs over the years, and it is a fine coda to this week's program.

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