Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Sheila Jordan: Better Than Anything…Live

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Still going strong at 87, Sheila Jordan was a mere lass of 62 when San Francisco radio host Bud Spangler broadcasted this 60-minute set from Kimball’s East in Oakland in 1991. Just prior to his death in 2014, Spangler unearthed his radio check of the session. A year later it found its overdue way onto CD.

In the accompanying press materials, bassist Harvie S, Jordan’s longtime collaborator who joins her here alongside pianist Alan Broadbent, posits that “Better Than Anything could possibly be the most powerful musical statement of her long and distinguished career.” It takes all of 60 seconds for Jordan to validate his verdict, as she thunders into the title track with a staccato freeform intro, complete with a snippet of the nursery rhyme “Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be?” Her singular style-the vocal equivalent of a Slip’N Slide, with its trademark swoops, swerves, tribal chants, foghorn blasts and clever interpolations-is on magnificent display across all nine tracks.

As always Jordan is the most generous of bandmates, allowing Harvie and Broadbent plenty of room to stretch out, most notably on a mellow “Waltz for Debby,” a wildly undulating “Falling in Love With Love” and a multi-shaded, 13-minute blending of “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” “Mourning Song,” “Japanese Dream” and “What’ll I Do.” Mid-medley she inserts what could be her manifesto: “Keeping this music alive is all I’ve ever really wanted to do.”

Originally Published