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The Commons
Photo 1

Ed Ianni

Jazz vocalist extraordinaire Shelia Jordan celebrates her 80th birthday this year.

The Arts

Jazz legend Sheila Jordan to perform in trio at VJC

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, by email at Tickets also can 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.

Originally published in The Commons issue #399 (Wednesday, March 15, 2017).

BRATTLEBORO—On Saturday, March 18, at 8 p.m., the Vermont Jazz Center will present NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan in a performance with pianist Alan Broadbent and bassist Harvie S.

The three have spent years together using the Great American Songbook as their canvas. Even when they are presenting an arrangement they have played hundreds of times, they view each performance as an opportunity to create something completely different, according to a news release.

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, Calif.

Tyron Grillo of All About Jazz wrote that Jordan “renders each tune a dwelling, one in which she seems content to have lived this musical life.”

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, often telling stories about her mentor Charlie Parker before singing his compositions.

Ellen Johnson, in a biography written with Jordan, writes that Jordan’s “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 Herbie Nichols, Barry Harris, and 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,” Jordan improvises over a tapestry of sound woven by Broadbent and Harvie S, understatedly singing “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.”

Generations of musicians have been influenced by her singing, sense of time, and commitment to keeping the living history of bebop vibrant. An NEA Jazz Master and a consummate teacher, Jordan is the “keeper of the bebop flame” and an authority on the Great American Songbook.

Jordan founded the Vermont Jazz Center’s summer vocal program in 1997 and calls it “her favorite workshop of all.” Students receive guidance and inspiration from Jordan and her co-teacher and friend Jay Clayton.

For the March 18 concert, Jordan has chosen to revisit the trio found on Better than Anything.

As one of the first singers to explore the duo format of jazz vocals and acoustic bass, Jordan’s 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, she recorded an entire album of bass and voice with famed Norwegian bassist Arild Anderson.

In the late 1970s, she sat in with Lee Konitz’s group and was impressed by his bassist, Harvie S; the two developed a strong connection and started to prepare duo material for a two-hour concert. The performance was a success and a harbinger of things to come — Jordan and Harvie S remained together as a duo for 14 years, touring the world and recording four albums.

A sensitive accompanist and brilliant arranger, Broadbent is one of Jordan’s favorite pianists. 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 24 albums as a leader and nine albums as a member/co-leader of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West.

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