Saving the best for last is Sheila’s beautiful composition ‘The Crossing’…

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Sheila Jordan (vocal); Jacob Sacks (piano); David Ambrosio (bass); Vinnie Sperrazza (drums)
Recorded March 2021

A chance encounter in which bassist David Ambrosio accompanied a young student who was having a lesson with Jordan had such a profound impression on the bass player that he vowed to work with Sheila at the first opportunity. Fast forward two decades and Ambrosio finally got his wish, and the resulting album is a perfect meeting of musicians from different generations bridging the gap with the power of the music created together.

The opportunity came about as part of a series of albums that trioTrio had recorded with US greats (previous recordings had featured Rich Perry and Dave Scott), and when asked for suggestions of who they could record with next Ambrosio immediately suggested Sheila Jordan.

What is immediately apparent is that the young trioTrio are steeped in the tradition. Through extensive playing together as a unit they seem able to adapt to working with others without compromising their collective identity, yet flexible enough to allow their guest to both contribute and influence the way that they approach the music.

The music recorded with Sheila encompasses the wide range of material that the singer has helped define since her infatuation with bebop and Charlie Parker in the 1940’s. From her very first trio with Skeeter Spight and Leroi Mitchell, writing lyrics to Parker’s compositions, Sheila has devoted herself to bebop and never forgotten her roots.

The biographical opening ‘The Bird / Confirmation’ features the lyrics by Spight and Mitchell over Bird’s classic composition, and Sheila’s performance shows no sign of ever being tired of telling the story. This is further confirmed with a swinging ‘All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm’ coupled with the Miles Davis tune ‘Little Willie Leap’ with lyrics by Sheila, Skeeter Spight and Leroy Mitchell, and Sheila scatting with a carefree abandon and perfectly in keeping with the composition.

Among the standards are a couple of Jordan originals that show just how complete a musician she is. ‘Workshop Blues’ is a timeless blues that kicks off with a wonderful introduction from drummer Vinnie Sperarazza before Sheila enters with her wordless vocalising. Pianist, Jacob Sacks gets in a lovely solo before Sheila comes back in to conclude this excellent track.

Quite possibly saving the best to last, is Sheila’s beautiful composition ‘The Crossing’ from her album of the same name. Sheila’s lyrics looking at the past and seeking healing and a better future is deeply affecting, and this performance with the trioTrio is flawless and poignant.

The trioTrio get a couple of numbers to themselves, Eubie Blake’s ‘Memories of You’ and ‘Hanky Panky’ by Hank Jones in which they demonstrate the empathy that have carefully built over time, but on this outing is Sheila Jordan who takes centre stage in a masterclass of bringing her own musical world into the orbit of others, and ensuring that the resulting music is never less than wholly satisfying.

Reviewed by Nick Lea

Looking for more Sheila Jordan? Check out our celebration of the iconic vocalist for her 94th birthday and our review of the album Live At Mezzrow.