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Sheila Jordan

Singer, Writer, Composer





Sheila Jeanette Dawson, 18 November 1928, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Raised in poverty in Pennsylvanina’s coal-mining country, Jordan began singing as a child and by the time she was in her early teens 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 Charlie 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, wich 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.



„Sheila Jordan wuchs in ärmlichen Verhältnissen auf, war schon sehr früh vom Bebop begeistert, jamte mit dem Altsaxophonisten Charlie Parker (der ihr „Million Dollar Ears“ attestierte) und heiratete dessen Pianisten Duke Jordan. Die Musikerin entwickelte sich ständig weiter, studierte bei Charles Mingues und Lennie Tristano, unternahm mit dem Arrangeur und Komponisten George Russell Ausflüge in freiere Gefilde, sang im Duo mit den besten Bassisten und Pianisten. Dennoch blieb die hochbegabte Stilistin beim großen Publikum weitgehend unbekannt.“      Neue Züricher Zeitung, Nov. 2004


Sheila Jordan lebt in New York.






Sheila Jordan im Institut

Foto: Karin Steinebrunner








Mit Sheila Jordan gibt es eine sehr große Zahl von

CD-Aufnahmen, die alle auf Ihrer Website zu sehen sind.


Hier einige Beispiele die sie mit Widmung versehen

dem Institut schenkte:



Believe in Jazz   (EP 2004-5)

Sheila Jordan with Serge Forté Trio






Sheila Jordan mit Cameron Brown





Little Song

Sheila Jordan mit dem Steve Kuhn Trio





Jazz Child

Sheila Jordan mit dem Steve Kuhn Trio









Sheila Jordan und Serge Forté im Institut, 8. / 9. Oktober 2005




Sheila Jordan und Serge Fortè 8. Oktober 2005

Foto: Karin Steinebrunner




Sheila Jordan mit Gerd und Christine Jansen, 9. Oktober 2005




Serge Forté, Sheila Jordan, Gerd Jansen 8. Oktober 2005

Foto: Karin Steinebrunner