NEA JAZZ MASTER SHEILA JORDAN TO SING AT VJC WITH ALL STAR TRIO
On Saturday, March 18th at 8:00 PM, the Vermont Jazz Center will present NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan in a performance with pianist Alan Broadbent and bassist Harvie S. All three are musicians of the highest caliber who have spent years together using the great American Song book as their canvas. Sheila paints with her voice and Alan and Harvie use their instruments to individually create a rich palette of colors and textures. They give us collective art.
Collaboratively the trio comes together to merge their vision: They focus meticulously over predetermined song forms infusing them with what appears to be an uncanny sense of freedom. Their playful interactions are deeply grounded, they are dependent upon an adherence to form, a deep respect for the jazz lineage and a working knowledge of its language. Their spontaneity and unfettered flow of creativity are supported by their open minds, athleticism of ideas and wisdom earned over decades of experience.
Even though the trio may be presenting an arrangement that they have played hundreds of times, they view each performance as an opportunity to fuse their voices and create something completely different. Each individual’s unselfish dedication to the trio’s overall sound results in performances that are consistently fresh, surprising and invigorating.
Sheila Jordan felt that a show at the Vermont Jazz Center could showcase a recently discovered recording of this trio’s performance from 25 years ago at Kimball’s East in Oakland California. It is revealing to listen closely to this newly released CD. The CD, Better than Anything, which illuminates this trio’s magic, demonstrates their comfort with each other, their soul-filled improvisational forays and their mastery of their instruments. Tyron Grillo of All About Jazz waxed poetic by noting that Sheila “renders each tune a dwelling, one in which she seems content to have lived this musical life…she handles every lyric with undivided attention, thereby allowing herself the freedom of wordlessness to override her grasp of form.”
Better than Anything is musically beyond reproach, but it also serves as a vehicle to appreciate an overarching theme that colors Jordan’s career: Paying homage to jazz’s legacy. Jordan is one of the few remaining active performers who grew up during the bebop era and she never misses an opportunity to educate her audience about the importance of bebop in the development of jazz. She always tells glowing stories about her mentor Charlie Parker before singing one of his compositions. Her master-classes are filled with anecdotes about his brilliance and kindness. Ellen Johnson, in her heart-felt biography written with Sheila Jordan, writes that Sheila’s “years of immersion in Parker’s solos began early and her ability to sing them and even write lyrics to some of them deepened her understanding of soloing on chord changes. In fact, her mastery of bebop changes and phrasing contributes in no small part to her reputation as one of the world’s finest improvisational singers.”
Although Jordan was a constant companion of such major figures as Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, she also champions lesser-known creative minds who were involved with the evolution of bebop during its nascent years. These include people she knew intimately like Herbie Nichols, Barry Harris, Skeeter Spight as well as her ex-husband Duke Jordan. On her CD Better than Anything, at the end of Cole Porter’s “You’d be So Nice to Come Home To.” Sheila improvises over a beautiful tapestry of sound woven by Broadbent and Harvie S - she understatedly sings “there are so many beautiful musicians who have passed my way, some of them are still around, others have gone away, the songs I sing are the songs I’ve learned from other jazz musicians, keeping this music alive is all I’ve ever really wanted to do.”
Words cannot describe the impact NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan has had on generations of musicians who have been influenced by her singing, sense of time and commitment to keeping the living history of bebop vibrant. A consummate teacher who seems to fall in love with all her students (and visa versa), Jordan is the “keeper of the bebop flame” and an authority on the Great American Songbook. She proudly transmits that wisdom to her students be they beginners or professionals. Sheila founded the Vermont Jazz Center’s summer s vocal program in 1997 and calls it “her favorite workshop of all.” Students from around the world flock to receive guidance and inspiration from Jordan and her co-teacher and dear friend, Jay Clayton. Sheila transmits her passion for bebop by introducing the complex melodies of Charlie Parker, infusing the music with the intimacy of someone who lived through the era and knew the musicians involved in its creation. Her accompanist of over thirty years, pianist Ray Gallon, states “Sheila has taught me so much: How to teach with love and humor while remaining firm…how to arrange songs in an interesting, creative way; how to organize set lists, making every note count, playing every note as if it’s your last, the importance of finding just the right tempo and mood for every song…Above all she always teaches by example the importance of artistic honesty and integrity.”
For her March 18th concert at the VJC, Jordan has chosen to revisit the trio found on Better than Anything. That trio includes bassist Harvie S. To understand the way Harvie S fits into this group, it is important to view another theme that has infused Jordan’s career and established her as a pioneer: Jordan is one of the first singers to explore the duo format of jazz vocals and acoustic bass. Her love affair with bass and voice began in 1956 with bassist Steve Swallow. They can be heard as a duo on “Dat Dere” on Jordan’s 1962 debut album Portrait of Sheila. In 1977, recorded an entire album of bass and voice with famed Norwegian bassist Arild Anderson. In the late ‘70s she sat in with Lee Konitz’s group and was impressed by his bassist, Harvie S; the two developed a strong connection and they started rehearsing regularly to prepare enough duo material for a two hour-long concert. The performance was a success and a harbinger of good things to come – Jordan and Harvie S remained together as a duo for fourteen years, touring the world and recording 4 albums using that format. Harvie S continues to work as a first call bassist in numerous formats. As a leader he has recorded with Kenny Barron, Bill Charlap, Ray Vega, Michael Brecker, Mick Goodrick, Mike Stern and many others. He has appeared as a sideman with Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers, Greg Abate, Louis Belson, Toninho Horta, Art Farmer, Al DiMeola, Steve Kuhn, Pete Yellin, Hendrik Meurkins and many others.
Alan Broadbent is one of Jordan’s favorite pianists. He is a sensitive accompanist and brilliant arranger. Together they have worked on numerous projects including her highly regarded Heart Songs, a jazz trio plus string quartet album with arrangements by Broadbent that helped Jordan “realize a lifelong dream” of performing and recording with a string quartet. Broadbent won two Grammys for his arrangements for Natalie Cole and Shirley Horn and has arranged for Paul McCartney, Glenn Frey, Diana Krall and many others. He is highly regarded pianist who has recorded twenty-four albums as a leader and nine albums as a member/co-leader of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West. Originally from New Zealand, Broadbent received recognition from Queen Elizabeth and was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to jazz and culture.
On March 18th, 2017th the VJC community will be privileged to hear Sheila Jordan in a trio concert with Harvie S and Alan Broadbent. This is a rare and very special opportunity. Not only are these musicians among the best performing on their instruments, but the energy, wisdom and history they present as a group is synergetic. This is a show should not to be missed. The VJC is grateful to two pairs of individuals whose hearts are particularly close to the jazz center: Beth Raffeld and Phillip Khoury along with Janet and Jeremy Birch. They are the sponsors this concert. Without their generous contributions this concert would not be possible. The VJC is also thankful for the ongoing support from the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, Hampton Inn of Brattleboro. VJC publicity is underwritten by the Brattleboro Reformer, WVPR, WVEW, WFCR and Chris Lenois of WKVT’s Green Mountain Mornings.
Tickets for Sheila Jordan at the Vermont Jazz Center are $20+ general admission, $15 for students with I.D. (contact VJC about educational discounts); available at In the Moment in Brattleboro, or online at www.vtjazz.org, by email at email@example.com. Tickets can also be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line, 802-254-9088, ext. 1. Handicapped access is available by calling the VJC at 802 254 9088.
Sheila Jordan and Alan Broadbent
Sheila Jordan, PR 2017 Trio with Alan Broadbent and Harvie S
Press Release Contact Eugene Uman, Vermont Jazz Center, 802 254 9088, firstname.lastname@example.org
NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan to Perform at the Vermont Jazz Center on Saturday, March 18th, 2017
Press Release date: March 2, 2017
Who: Vocalist Sheila Jordan with pianist Alan Broadbent and bassist Harvie S
What: Bebop plus Jazz Standards from the Great American Songbook
When: Saturday, March 18th, 2017 at 8:00 PM
Where: The Vermont Jazz Center, 72 Cotton Mill Hill, #222, Brattleboro, VT 05301
Tickets available: online at www.vtjazz.org, by email at email@example.com, by phone 802 254 9088, in person at In The Moment, Main St., Brattleboro, VT.