Sheila Jordan is a real nightclub singer. Though she hasn’t touched a drink since 1986, the clink of glasses at the bar at Ronnie’s is the natural ambience for a voice that makes you lean in to listen. Hers is a reserved art, calibrated to preserve precision and, aged 85, it’s hard to find a missed note or emotional nerve untouched.

This eternal bohemian would look hip any time from Louise Brooks’s to now, with her brunette bob and Chinese peacock-patterned, glistening-beaded dress. The singer who Charlie Parker complimented on her “million-dollar ears” made few recordings even in middle-age – a rare Blue Note vocal LP, Portrait of Sheila (1962), and Playground (1979) with Steve Kuhn on ECM stand out. Audiences took their time getting hip to her, but her second night at Ronnie’s is packed.

“Every year I get an inch shorter. I’ll be crawling…” she wisecracks as she slips on stage to join the Brian Kellock Trio. The good humour rarely lets up, nor the casual mention of icons of the bop era to which she’s a steely connecting bond. She begins with ‘The Bird’, recalling a time when you’d hear Parker’s name “every day”, her vocal a sort of musical speaking which name-checks Roy Haynes and her ex-husband Duke Jordan, too. Her exact contemporary Horace Silver, who she gave “a new piano” to one long ago day and died in June, gets a heartfelt send-off with his song ‘Peace’.

Jordan can be antic, and relishes the humorous, quickfire lyrics to her upstate New York neighbour Sonny Rollins’ ‘Pent-up House’. But she is straight, warm and close-up with ballads. When she eases back into Irving Berlin’s ‘How Deep Is the Ocean’ after the Trio’s solos, "How much do I love you?" is a quiet, serious question. “Why turn a dream to dust?” she asks on ‘If I Should Lose You’, holding us with her intimate inquisition of a lyric which fears a partner’s death. She snaps that into an up-tempo scat in which she takes the tenor sax role, before an improbable breeze into the upper register. Potential vocal crashes are pulled out of with a veteran bop pilot’s ease, rough throatiness deployed deliberately. Behind her, the band supply a bluesy bop base, John Rae all brushes and cymbal-taps. This is soft work, barely needing amplification.

‘The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress’ draws on Jordan’s Native American background, starting with a sort of sacred American scat. Kellock supplies tidal piano ripples as she bites on the word “harsh”, like something bitter. An autobiographical song takes her from life as a Pennsylvania coalminer’s granddaughter to the epiphany when Bird opened the door of a Detroit club so the 14-year-old, then known to her friends as Jeannie Dawson, could hear him in the alley outside. She gives the word “rarely” incantatory power here.

Jordan’s pushing the two-hour mark, having already led an afternoon vocal workshop, when she encores with a song-suite from her time with Steve Kuhn, weaving Gordon Jenkins’ ‘Good-Bye’ into ‘Anything Goes’. Jenkins wrote the song after the death of his first wife, and saw it immortalised on Frank Sinatra Sings For Only the Lonely. Jordan the heartbreaking torch singer holds the mic-stand with a lover’s familiarity as she sings, “kiss me as you go”.

Around midnight, wrapped in a fur coat and ready to hit the street from the club once again, she pauses to admire a tune from the late show’s Brandon Allen Quartet. “If it wasn’t for jazz music, I wouldn’t be alive today,” she said earlier, and it was clearly the truth. Jordan’s still lost in and living the music as her next day begins.

– Nick Hasted

 

Czech-born pianist Vít Křišťan (pictured above right) will play Soho’s Spice of Life on 18 September with his usual trio counterparts drummer Roman Vícha and bassist Jaromír Honzák, as part of a national celebration of the ‘Year of Czech Music 2014’ organised by the London Czech Centre.

This commemoration recognises a number of anniversaries among important historical figures in Czech music, including those of Antonín Dvořák, Leoš Janáček, Josef Suk, Milada Šubrtová and the Prague Symphony Orchestra. The Vit Křišťan’s trio’s debut album Imprints, which features compositions by the classically trained pianist, was released last year to wide critical praise

­Bethany Roberts

For more info go to www.wegottickets.com

 

bobby-wellinsThe historic seaside resort of Rottingdean in Sussex is set to host a new four-day jazz festival over the bank holiday weekend 22-25 August. Programmed by Rottingdean Arts, the 11-concerts over the weekend will feature headline performances from Scottish sax great Bobby Wellins (pictured), the fiery post-bopping Ronnie Scott’s All Stars, led by pianist James Pearson, and legendary jazz bassist Herbie Flowers. Wellins will open the festival on Friday 22 August with a performance at The Plough Inn, Rottingdean, joined by his band featuring drummer Spike Wells, pianist Roderick Hart, bassist Paul Whitten and vocalist Imogen Mayall.

The festival continues with a lunchtime performance by the Roderick Hart Trio at the Queen Vic, followed by an evening concert at the Village Hall from the Dixieland Stompers, Bex Jazz Duo and Brighton Big Band all on Saturday 23 August. Further daytime gigs take place on Sunday 24 August with the Bex Jazz Duo at the Beyond Design Café and Julian Nicholas and Roderick Hart Trio at the Rottingdean Terraces Stage at 3pm.

Renowned bassist Herbie Flowers performs with his Music Box band at the Village Hall, presenting their take on the music of George Gershwin and Dave Brubeck. The bank holiday Monday sees the Mark Bassey Band plays Basie perform at the Terraces Stage from 3pm while the festival closes out at the Village Hall with the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars. Bandleader and virtuoso pianist James Pearson will present the Ronnie Scott’s Story through humourous stories and compelling music covering the club’s 50 years of history.

– Mike Flynn


For more info go to 
www.rottingdeanjazzfestival.ticketsource.co.uk

 

The 10th annual Imperial Wharf Jazz Festival returns to Fulham in South West London on Friday 12 and Saturday 13 September, hosted by the property development firm St George. The free event boasts popular jazz-reggae big band Jazz Jamaica as Friday’s headline act, featuring special guest vocalist Myrna Hague, lovingly known as ‘Jamaica’s First Lady of Jazz’, while Roberto Pla’s 20-piece Latin Ensemble will headline a salsa-infused Saturday night.

The weekend also features rising stars of London’s afrobeat-jazz scene Ezra Collective (Fri 7pm), prohibition era-inspired Sara Spade & The Noisy Boys (Sat 1pm) and exciting Manchester-based trio GoGo Penguin (Sat 2.15pm). Award-winning singer and pianist Liane Carroll will perform with her trio (Sat 3.45pm), followed by celebrated guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Antonio Forcione (Sat 5pm) and double MOBO award winning saxophonist YolanDa Brown (Sat 6:45pm). The is held at Imperial Wharf Boulevard, Townmead Road, London SW6 2UB, and there will be a range of international cuisine available to festivalgoers.

Bethany Roberts

For more information visit www.imperialwharf.com

 

Highly respected guitarist Nigel Price will embark on a nationwide UK tour with his trio this autumn that runs through to mid-December. His most recent album Hit the Road was released in August on 33 Records, and features Matt Home on drums and Pete Whittaker on organ. Home and Whittaker will perform with Price throughout the upcoming tour and they will be joined on a number of dates by guest saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulos, who also featured on the new album.

The tour dates are: Ronnie Scott’s, London (29 Sept); Grimsby Jazz, Grimsby (1st Oct); Wakefield Jazz, Wakefield (3 Oct); Guitar Festival, Sandwich (4 Oct); Chelmsford Jazz Club, Chelmsford (5 October); Milestones, Lowestoft (5 Oct); The Big Band, Oxford (7 Oct); Swansea Jazzland, Swansea (8 Oct); Black Mountain Jazz, Abergavenny (9 Oct); Bebop Club, Bristol (10 Oct); Dexter’s Jazz Club, Nottingham (14 Oct); Scarborough Jazz Club, Scarborough (15 Oct); The Crypt, Camberwell (17 Oct); Fleet Jazz Club, Fleet (21 Oct); Swing Unlimited, Bournemouth (22 Oct); Folkestone Jazz Club, Folkestone (23 Oct); The Verdict, Brighton (24 Oct); Gumbles Jazz, Stafford (27 Oct); North Wales Jazz Club, Denbigh (28 Oct); Glasgow Art Club, Glasgow (29 Oct); Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (20 Oct); Ushaw College, Durham (31 Oct); The Eagle, Rochester (2 Nov); The Fludyers, Felixstowe (2 Nov); Watermill Jazz Club, Dorking (6 Nov); Lauderdale House, London (13 Nov); Norwich Jazz Club, Norwich (18 Nov); Dereham Jazz Society, Dereham (19 Nov); Billingshurst Centre, Billingshurst (21 Nov); Bexley Jazz Club, Bexley Village (27 Nov); Jags, Ascot (7 Dec); Marlow Jazz Club, Marlow (16 Dec); and The Woodman, Sevenoaks (17 Dec).

For more information visit www.nigelprice.biz

- Bethany Roberts

 

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