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Monday September 01, 2014
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Million-dollar Ears

 

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a lone female voice, singing the lyrics with clarity but without much vibrato, with feeling but without exaggerated pathos. Listening to it once again after all these years, I'm still amazed by the original-ity and beauty of this unexpected entry. The voice belongs to Sheila Jordan, and this idiosyncratic debut is emblematic of her artistic life.

Jordan grew up in the coalfields of Pennsylvania, where she sang that song as a child, but early on she moved to Detroit, where her musical taste was forever altered when she heard Charlie Parker and the local youngsters who were learning his kind of music, which they called bebop. Sheila fell in love with this music and was soon putting lyrics to bebop solos, eventually join-ing with two friends, Skeeter Spight and Leroy Mitchell, to form the trio Skeeter, Mitch, and Jean. They sang Charlie Parker's saxophone solos note for note, and did it so well that when she finally met her idol, he told her she was "the chick with the million-dollar ears."

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