Justin Time Records
Though it’s a fool’s gambit to credit any living jazz vocalist as the world’s greatest, it would be imprudent not to acknowledge that the indefatigable Sheila Jordan, going stronger than ever at 80, must rank within the top two or three. Winter Sunshine, Jordan’s 21st album, was recorded live in Montreal last February, a few months prior to her 80th birthday. To suggest it is exemplary Jordan is, again, foolhardy—ever since 1962’s landmark Portrait of Sheila, her recordings have remained unfailingly brilliant. There is no good or bad Jordan. There is just Jordan (which is rather like saying there is just Mount Everest).
Perhaps, though, her live recordings do offer a slight advantage. First, there is the delectably playful banter she volleys with the skill and precision of Roger Federer. Also, there is the magical way in which she peppers the proceedings with stories from her rich professional past (culminating with the warmly, winningly autobiographical “Sheila’s Blues”). Finally, there are her loving nods to her musical heroes, here including her own “Ballad for Miles,” Davis’ “Little Willie Leaps” and, perhaps most splendidly, a meandering “Lady Be Good” dedicated, dazzling scat and all, to Ella Fitzgerald.