|SHEILA JORDAN & JAY CLAYTON @ VISION:
“We’re glad you’re here. We’re glad we’re here. “
A loving welcome. That’s how Sheila Jordan embraced her audience at the start of the “Be-Bop to Free-Bop” set @ the Vision Festival last night.
Draped in sheer swaths of elegant black silk, black floor length skirts with black lace edging their shoulders and wrists, statuesque Jordan and her musical partner Jay Clayton embarked on a journey that you can not get anywhere else my friends. If you want the living sonic proof of the relationship between be-bop and free-jazz through the vocal perspective, you people all need to come out for this Jordan/Clayton set anytime and anywhere it is happening.
Flanked by instrumentalists Cameron Brown, bass and Jack Wilkins, guitar, the quartet reveals the story of the roots of jazz and in song-after-contrasting-song, showing the evolution of the inquisitive and playful art of jazz, and it’s inevitable expansion of sound aesthetic. These women, who are now the wise elders of our vocal tribe, are in stronger voice than many singers half their age. Starting with the be-bop, these women are not just in the “pocket” – they MADE the pocket; you just do not GET that kind of living history all that often nowadays. It can not be manufactured, it has to be lived; lived into, lived with, and lived through the ear, over time. Time. Time. And these women have lived this music both independently, and together in collaboration, like NO ONE, for many years.
At the start, Sheila and Jay read Martin Luther King’s “Humanity and the Importance of Jazz” written in 1964, over a running bass line. They fluidly introduced call and response in long tones, and shifted into Confirmation, with moments of breathtaking improvised stop and go precision unison; “I’m the be-bopper, and this tune was written by 2 young cats I used to sing with in Detroit,” said Sheila as she set us up. A selection of Sheila and Jay’s favorite standards followed, effortless trading 8s in scat ntermingled with improvised conversation of events in their lives, and in the very moment. Bits and pieces of the musicians’ worlds drew a picture of a quartet that laughs together, and has lived through some rain. They’ve got each other’s backs.
At the mid-point the set shifted towards Jay’s original compositions, including works with poetry, and atonal jaunts such as her remarkable piece “Raga”, a structured improvisation that leaps around the patterns of an approximate scale in rhythmic cascade. Clayton also introduced her electronic Loop, and layered in thick yet elegant textures. The most moving moment, for this listener, was a poem piece Jay sang/spoke based on a dream of Sheila’s. Just the act of such an intimate exchange was a gift to the audience.
At the end, during a shared blues, Sheila joked about getting lost while driving out to Roulette, from Manhattan. “Can somebody help us get back to 14th street? I don’t know the way home,” she sang, as the blues backed her up. With Sheila, Jay, Cameron, and Jack, you are “home” – all night long. Many of the accomplished singers Sheila and Jay have mentored were in attendance including the shining faces of Kendra Shank, Maryanne DeProphetis, and Alexis Parsons.
A set of vocal celebration, and then a whole night of sets curated by Vision with political inspiration, visual art and movement integration, and duos in improvisation, to carry forth the theme of Freedom and it’s essence.