Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b Sheila Dawson, 18 Nov. '29, Detroit) Jazz singer. She won the down beat critics' poll for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition eight times '63--86, but jazz singers don't become household names. Her parents split up within days of her birth; she was raised by grandparents in the mountains of Pennsylvania in poverty and among hereditary alcoholism. She studied piano at age eleven, fell in love with black culture and went to NYC with no thought of making it as a singer, but became friends with Charlie Parker, later studied harmony and theory with Lennie Tristano; was married '50s to Duke Jordan. Sang on one track of a Peter Ind LP '60; then a remarkable, famous version of 'You Are My Sunshine' on George Russell's The Outer View '63, now on Fantasy/OJC CD. Sang in chorus on Carla Bley's Escalator Over The Hill '71; recorded soundtrack of CBS TV show Look Up And Live '72, with Don Heckman (reeds, composer, bandleader, critic etc; b 18 Dec. '35, Reading PA); with Roswell Rudd '72--5 (one track on Numatik Swing Band '73 on JCOA, then Flexible Flyer '74 on Arista); formed quartet with Steve Kuhn (keyboards, composer; b 24 March '38, Brooklyn): album Playground '79 on ECM. She also sang on Steve Swallow's Home '79 (music to poems by Robert Creeley) and Kuhn's Last Year's Waltz '81, Theatre '83 by the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band, all on ECM; also Aki Takase's ABC '82 on East Wind. Own LPs incl. Portrait Of Sheila on Blue Note '62, Sheila '77 on Steeplechase (in Oslo with Arild Andersen), Old Time Feeling '82 on Palo Alto (with bassist/composer Harvie Swartz, b 6 Dec. '48, Chelsea MA), The Crossing '84 on Blackhawk; Lost And Found '89 (with Kenny Barron) and a duo album with Mark Murphy One For Junior '91, then Heart Strings '94, all on Muse, which also reissued the Palo Alto album. Body And Soul c'87 on Sony was a superb Japanese release, a sort of reprise of all her best numbers, but Columbia in the West doesn't have to release anything it doesn't want to, and too often doesn't.