In just three years, the Jazzschool’s annual Mark Murphy Vocal Scholarship fundraisers have become established as a highlight of the fall concert season. They provide an opportunity for Bay Area vocal jazz royalty to come together in celebration of their art and their mentors.
On Monday, December 3, the Jazzschool will present its 4th annual vocal scholarship fundraiser at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. Whereas in past years the focus was firmly on Murphy, his music, and his influence (the man himself was in attendance at last year’s event), things will take a different turn this year when NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan will be the fundraiser’s honoree. Jordan, who turns 84 on November 18, plans to be on hand to enjoy the performances of Kitty Margolis, Madeline Eastman, Ed Reed, and—also serving as the evening’s musical director—Laurie Antonioli. They will be accompanied by Matt Clark on piano, John Shifflett on bass, and Jason Lewis on drums.
“It’s thrilling that we are going into the fourth year of our degree program at The Jazzschool Institute,” says Antonioli. “And it’s a special honor for me, as the Director of the Vocal Program, to have the support of these incredible artists who are donating their time and energy to the music, to the school, and, of course, to Sheila Jordan!
“After focusing on Mark Murphy’s music in the last three concerts it seemed fitting to honor his jazz-sister, Sheila. They are two peas in a pod and have been close friends for many years. Sheila has touched the lives of many, many jazz singers and is a mentor to all of us who are performing on December 3. It’s going to be an historic and memorable evening filled with world-class singing and the warm generosity that is Sheila Jordan.”
“I’m overwhelmed that all these beautiful singers would honor me,” says Jordan. “I got where I am because I never gave up. In fact, I was not a full-time professional until I was 58 years old! These West Coast singers have stuck together through all the years—there’s no competition and this is a very rare thing. Creating a scholarship in Mark’s name is fantastic. He is, to me, the greatest male jazz singer and always has been.”
In addition to the performances, vocalist and Jazzschool instructor Ellen Johnson will present an audiovisual tribute drawn from photos, video clips, and stories she’s compiled in the course of writing a book on Jordan.
At the end of the evening, Antonioli will announce the 2012 Mark Murphy Vocal Scholarship winner. Previous recipients are Kyra Gordon (2011), Andrea Claburn (2010), and Jua Howard (2009).
Born in 1928 and raised in poverty in Pennsylvania’s coal-mining country, Sheila Jordan began singing as a child and by her early teens, influenced by the music of Charlie Parker, was working in Detroit nightclubs. After moving to New York in the early 1950s, she married jazz pianist Duke Jordan, and studied with Lennie Tristano. In the early ’60s she made her first recording on George Russell’s The Outer View, which featured a famous 10-minute version of “You Are My Sunshine.” Sheila continues to travel the world singing, teaching, and sharing the deep spirit and soul that is jazz.
“Sheila Jordan is the mother of us all,” says Kitty Margolis. “With her huge spirit, positivity, and openness she has been one of her generation’s most influential teachers and mentors. She is a charismatic goodwill ambassador for vocal jazz, representing the living history of our genre to appreciative audiences far and wide.”
“When I met Sheila Jordan at Jazz Camp West in 2006,” Ed Reed recalls, “it was very comforting. At the time, Sheila was 78 and I was 77; we were the two oldest in attendance. Over seven days we spent all our free time together, sharing life stories. It was a pivotal experience, and two years later I made my first CD at the age of 79. Sheila was instrumental in inspiring me to follow my dreams. To sing in her honor, six years later, represents one of the many miracles in my life!”
“Sheila is a true Jazz Baby and one of my idols,” says Madeline Eastman. “She has dedicated her life to the jazz art form, making all the sacrifices along the way. No compromise, just pure heart, soul. . . and Charlie Parker!”
On Sunday, December 2, Jordan will conduct a master class at the Jazzschool, the second time she’s taught at the Berkeley school. For info, call 510-845-5373.
“The Life and Music of NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan” at the Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison Street, Berkeley. Monday, December 3, 8:00 pm. Tickets are $26.50 advance, $28.50 at the door. Purchase tickets ahead of time, as this event is expected to sell out.