A Magical Mystery Album From Jazz Legend Sheila Jordan
Crate diggers know that “previously unreleased” is usually code for “caveat emptor.” Most recordings from the radio-and-records era that ended up on the shelf instead of in the stores have been gathering dust for a good reason. Happily, Sheila Jordan‘s Comes Love: Lost Session 1960- streaming at Spotify – is not one of them.
On face value, the performances are solid, notwithstanding the demo-like brevity of a handful of tracks. The iconic singer sounds younger than she was at the time – she was already 31 when she put these songs in the can. The intrigue here is who was in the band: Jordan can’t recall! The pianist knows his or her blues, has a Romantic side and seems well-versed in working with singers. Bass tends to be low in the mix, and the drums are often barely present, which might account for why this never saw the light of day until now. Be that what it may, the digitization is excellent, leaving no doubt that the source is analog.
Although a lot of the songs here are standards, there’s some lesser-known material here as well. Jordan leads her mystery quartet in a stately, expressive, understatedly bittersweet take of James Shelton’s I’m the Girl, supremely confident in being a guy’s plan B. A tantalizing single verse and chorus of It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing is 180 degrees from that, a lickety-split vehicle for the hard-bop gymnastics and daunting range she’d show off on her 1963 bass-and-vocal debut, Portrait of Sheila with Steve Swallow.
She takes her time, empathetically, with a glittery Ballad of the Sad Young Men – there’s more Dinah Washington than Sarah Vaughan in her delivery. The same applies to her versions of Don’t Explain and Glad to Be Happy a little later on.
Jordan hangs coyly behind the beat in a brief, ripe. no-nonsense bluesy take of the klezmer-jazz standard Comes Love and reprises that approach in They Can’t Take That Away From Me, which if you listen closely could be a soundcheck. There’s more than a hint of the sassiness that she’d bring front and center throughout her career in a low-key, swinging Sleeping Bee and also a circumspect, saturnine piano-and-vocal interpretation of When the World Was Young.
Her approach to a tantalizing verse of I’ll Take Romance is more brassy, and less distinguished, even as the band scramble and hint at latin noir. The most fully realized of all the full-band songs here is These Foolish Things, Jordan rising to subtle angst as the group hint at a bouncy triumph before returning to wistful wee-hours gleam.