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Sheila Jordan and Cameron Brown: I’ve Grown Accustomed to the Bass

There are female singers that have broader ranges, sing more loudly, have sweeter timbres and are more acrobatic than Sheila Jordan, but few have ap-proached her vocal accomplishments. That’s because she’s a superb all-around musician and improviser. And she takes care of herself. She was 68 when this High Note album was cut, but she sounds young. Her altering of melodies is fresh and unpredictable, and her scatted lines, as on “I Got Rhythm/Listen to Monk,” are substantive. And she’s got an infectious sense of humor.

Jordan has a thing about performing duets with bass players. She did a duo with Charlie Mingus in Toledo in 1955 and hasn’t quit, recording with Arild Anderson, Harvie Swartz, and now Cameron Brown. I’ve Grown Accustomed to the Bass includes several vocalese performances: “Dat Dere,” “Quasimodo,” “Goodbye Porkpie Hat.” “Mourning Song” is a wordless selection that has something in common with Native American music.

Then there’s stuff Jordan’s composed with autobiographical lyrics, like about how her ex-husband Duke didn’t pay her alimony. And what a kick to hear, after about a million years, the waltz “Better Than Anything.” Thanks for reviving that one, Sheila! Give Brown plenty of credit here too: his tone’s big and firm; his time and intonation are right on the money.

The 32 Jazz CD is taken from Muse albums cut in 1982 with a duo including Swartz, in 1989 with a trio including Kenny Barron and in 1993 with strings arranged by Alan Broadbent. Jordan performs standards and runs the gamut from anguished to happy. She sometimes transforms themes into virtual countermelodies, stretching and bending syllables, laying behind the beat and catching up with it. Every track on this CD is moving in one way or another. You always know there’s a human being that you can identify with behind her voice.

Originally Published