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Jazz Vocal Workshop Report - Sheila Jordan

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I attended a wonderful workshop yesterday, featuring jazz legend Sheila Jordan , and organized by TMV member and dedicated jazz singer/teacher Ellen Johnson .

Now in her 80s, Sheila still tours and teaches with sharp mind & musicianship, and a very kind encouraging manner. Although sprinkled with anecdotes about Parker, Miles Davis, Coltrane etc., it really was a work session emphasizing respect for the music & importance of doing one's homework [know your song/key/rhythm/beginning & ending] before attending a jam. According to Sheila, the difference between a respected jazz singer and a disrespected "chick singer" is whether you know what you're doing AND can communicate it easily to the band (yes all the participants happened to be women.)

Group warmup was a 12-bar blues "my name is__and today I feel __" round-robin improv= brilliant! Demo+critique time brought useful suggestions for everyone. My weakness (as always) was in setting tempo but I got through the embarrassment of many false starts (on 'Round Midnight') & then got to try it in a couple different keys.

Sheila then taught everyone a couple of semi-bop numbers and demonstrated how to keep a simple through-line of scale or melody in mind while improvising, so you don't get lost.


  • musical literacy/ theory/ are primarily for communication with others. You want to visit a culture and have a really meaningful interaction? learn the language.
  • Even after counting down a tune, stay on beat/straight time for the first measure, to be sure backup players catch your groove.
  • Sheila: "Long before the music started to support me, I supported the music, because I just loved it. Everyone can do that. You keep supporting the music, keep it alive, until it supports you."



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