Eventually she moved to New York, where she married, had a daughter, divorced, and worked for decades as a paralegal while she raised her child on her own. Although her roots lay in be-bop, she associated mainly with the more adventurous musicians of the time, who were reinventing jazz in the lofts of the Big Apple. In the late seventies she became a member of pianist Steve Kuhn’s quartet; this was highly unusual in that she was not a “featured” singer but an integrated member of a group in which the voice was just another instrument. She also began performing and recording in duo with just a bass player, an unusual combination that she still uses, most recently with bassists Cameron Brown and Jay Clayton. Not surprisingly, her uncompromising and original reworking of the role of a female singer in jazz was appreciated more abroad than at home, and she began to travel internationally, singing, recording, and teaching in various countries.
Jordan belongs to a small club of singers who really do sing jazz, as opposed to pop songs with jazz arrangements. Her models and mentors have been instrumentalists, and she phrases as if she were playing a saxophone or a trumpet with lyrics, relying more on her ear than on the sound of her voice. But she does not abandon the meaning of the words, and when she sings standards, blues, or jazz tunes, she likes to tell a story. Sometimes she makes up lyrics as she improvises, and her sets usually end with an autobiographical bebop blues. She’ll be at the Firefly Club on May 23.
[Originally published in May, 2009.]