Happy Birthday Sheila Jordan

November 18, 1928


A tribute to the ageless jazz singer

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Sheila Jeanette Dawson was born on November 18, 1928 in Detroit, Michigan.

She grew up in Summerhill, Pennsylvania, moving back to Detroit in 1940.

Jordan sang and played piano in local clubs including as a member of the trio Skeeter, Mitch and Jean where she wrote lyrics to some of Charlie Parker’s songs.

Parker would always be a major inspiration, and he encouraged her singing, urging her to sit in with his group.

She moved to New York in 1951, studied with Lennie Tristano and Charles Mingus, and married pianist Duke Jordan in 1952 (they got divorced in 1962).

In 1962 Jordan recorded an abstract version of “You Are My Sunshine” with George Russell and the following year recorded her classic Blue Note album Portrait Of Sheila; however she worked a day job for many years, not really getting discovered until the 1970s.

Since then Jordan, who pioneered vocal-bass duet albums, has been a prominent force in the jazz world as a highly individual and always creative singer, and as an influential educator, still very active in her late eighties.

Here she is on Aug. 19, 1971 in Norway performing “God Bless The Child,” “Dat Dere,” “The Inch Worm,” and “Because We’re Kids” in Europe.


Sheila Jordan, vocals
Jan Garbarek, tenor, flute
Bobo Stenson, piano
Arild Andersen, bass
Jon Christensen, drums

-Scott Yanow


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