Sheila Jordan tells musicians, artists: Don’t give up
April 20, 2017
The UNC/Greeley Jazz Festival runs through Saturday evening. The evening performances, one of the highlights of the festival, are as follows:
» Tonight — NEA jazz master and saxophonist Jimmy Heath performs with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.
» Saturday — The world premiere of the “Romeo and Juliet” project features NEA Jazz Master David Liebman with trumpter virtuoso Greg Gisbert and UNC’s Jazz Lab Band I.
The evening concerts start at 7:30 p.m. in the Union Colony Civic Center, 701 10th Ave. in downtown Greeley.
The festival also features after-hours sessions at the Moxi Theatre, 802 9th St. in downtown Greeley. Hundreds of school groups will perform all weekend at various venues for free, and many great musicians will put on clinics across the city.
For a complete schedule, go to UNCGreeleyJazzFestival2017.sched.com.
Sheila Jordan is known for her unique jazz singing, but she said she doesn't really consider herself a singer.
"I'm really not a singer. I'm a frustrated horn player," she said. "I don't phrase (like a singer). I don't hear that way."
Jordan sang Thursday night at Monfort Concert Hall, 701 10th Ave. in Greeley, as a headlining artist for the UNC/Greeley Jazz Festival. Her greatest influence, Charlie Parker, often would introduce her as "the singer with the million-dollar ears."
Jordan hosted a Meet the Artist session Thursday afternoon at St. Patrick's Church, 803 10th Ave. Jordan said she first found her passion for jazz when she first heard Charlie Parker and his Reboppers' "Now's the Time" on a jukebox. And she found that passion quickly.
"I put my nickel in," she recalled. "It played four notes, man. That's all it took. Four notes, and I said, 'That's it. That's the music I'll dedicate my life to.' "
Whenever she goes to Kansas City, Mo., for a concert, Jordan said she always goes to the Lincoln Cemetery and puts flowers on Parker's grave.
"He's the only reason that I sing, Charlie Parker," she said.
Jordan pioneered bass/voice duo in jazz in the early 1950s. When she first started, she said everybody thought she was insane.
And then Charles Mingus came along. When he first heard her sing, he complimented her unique sound. Later, when she saw Mingus playing in Toledo, he invited her up to sing.
"That's what started it," she said.
Jordan has been singing since she was just 3 years old. When she was 8, she sang on "Uncle Nick's Amateur Hour" on the radio. A man who didn't know her age wrote to her asking for her hand in marriage just because of her voice.
"I never expected to get as far as I did with this music. That's why I'm telling you, no matter what you do, no matter what you play … any kind of art, don't give up," she said.
Jordan wasn't always headlining jazz festivals. When her husband left her a single mother, she had to take on an office job five days per week to support herself and her daughter. Two or three nights per week, she'd go to the club at night and sing.
"What I call it is supporting the music until it can support me," she said. "It's my soul, man. I don't want to give up this music. And whatever you do, you shouldn't either. Don't give up."