Dobbin's Den


November 2003

On November 18, both jazz singer SHEILA JORDAN and celebrated mouse, MICKEY (not the drummer) mark their mutual 75th birthday. Sheila will be celebrating this auspicious occasion with an appearance with the Steve Kuhn Trio at the Jazz Standard [116 East 27th Street] in New York City. I vividly remember the night I first met her, it was in 1961 and I was vacationing in New York (to clear things up Montreal has always been my home) and on the night in question I headed to Greenwich Village to hear pianist VALDO WILLIAMS, an old friend who had lived in Montreal in the early 50s when I heard my first live jazz locally. At that time Valdo was the pianist with Alan Wellman's band at Rockhead's Paradise located at the corner of St. Antoine and Mountain. Valdo played a number of Emanon Jazz Society meetings and Jazz Workshop concerts; he shared the piano duties with Steep Wade at the famed Charlie Parker Chez Paree concert of February 7, 1953. On his final EJS appearance before heading home to NYC -- he was born in Brooklyn and was a childhood friend of Randy Weston and Cecil Payne as well as B.T. Lundy, Walter Bacon and Buddy Jordan, who all settled in Montreal -- he appeared, running a high fever, in a trio with Bob Rudd and Bacon and by the end of the first set his suede jacket was soaking wet -- memorable, charged, trio playing! That night back in ''61 I took the bus to Washington Square and I remember that while walking to Page Three, where Valdo was appearing, outside the Versailles, I spotted a face that I recognized and asked the gentleman if he was Jim Hall and he answered in the affirmative and after a brief chat he graciously invited me to be his guest in the club, I declined explaining that I was off to hear an old friend. What Valdo was doing was playing piano for what could loosely called "a variety show" and the only person he bothered to introduce me to was a young lady named Sheila Jordan. She later sang "Yesterdays" and I knew immediately that I had heard a great singer. She recorded that Kern piece with bassist Peter Ind and it appeared on his Wave label, this prior to her debut as a leader on "Portrait of Sheila" for Blue Note, the latter session is one that 41 years later is still thankfully in the catalogue. The next time I heard her was a bit after that release when she appeared at Take Three (?), a coffee house on Bleecker Street opposite the Jimmy Giuffre trio composed of Paul Bley and Steve Swallow, then an acoustic bassist. As she was to do often in her career, she was appearing in a vocal -- bass duo setting. with Swallow and, in a forecast to the future, Steve Kuhn sat in on piano that occasion and the audience included Ornette Coleman. I can proudly say that I was writing about her in CODA magazine long before Down Beat or any other music publication gave her any ink. One issue included a photo that I took at the aforementioned gig with Swallow. The Blue Note release changed all that and she is today still singing with great feeling, to these ears, the greatest jazz singer this side of Billie Holiday, hands down! She's made three Montreal International Jazz Festival appearances -- at the Comedie Canadienne, the Bibliotheque Nationale and this year at Club Soda with the Kuhn trio. On one of those occasions Karen Young and Michel Donato, another voice-bass duo, appeared opposite Sheila and Harvie Swartz and during that concert the singers also switched bassists for more memorable music. She and Harvie also appeared at Café Campus when it was located on Queen Mary Road (where Bley, Mark Levinson and Barry Altschul also appeared).

The Recordings

Over the years she recorded with George Russell, the marvellous, extended, version of "You Are My Sunshine" on is "The Outer View" on Riverside, on ECM, there are also recordings as a member of the Steve Kuhn Quartet with Swartz and Bobby Moses, others include sessions with George Gruntz and with Roswell Rudd and later with Jane Bunnett.

On her own there are the High Note CDS of recent years:

"Little Song" [2002] with Steve Kuhn, David Finck, Billy Drummond and guest Tom Harrell.

"Jazz Child" [1998] with the same trio and guest Theo Bleckmann.

"I've Grown Accustomed To The Bass" [1997] (live) with Cameron Brown.

"Heart Strings" [1993] with strings arranged by Alan Broadbent with Broadbent, Harvie Swartz. Marvin "Smitty" Smith and the Hiraga String Quartet.

"One For Junior" [1991] with Mark Murphy, Kenny Barron, Harvie Swartz, Ben Riley and guest Bill Mays.

On Muse you'll find: "Lost and Found" [1989] with Kenny Barron, Harvie Swartz and Ben Riley and "Old Time Feeling" [1982] with Harvie Swartz

The others:

Hard to find, but well worth the effort, is "The Crossing" [Black-Hawk] a 1984 recording with Barron, Swartz, Riley and Harrell that includes the title tune (which concerns her love of singing and her recovery from alcoholism, a problem she's generously helped me with as well) and her autobiographical "Sheila's Blues". On M-A Recordings a pair of "live" Japanese duets with Swartz, "The Very Thought Of You" from 1988 and "Songs From Within" from 1989. In 1977 for Steeplechase she did "Sheila" another duo, this time the bassist being Arild Andersen and, of course, "Portrait of Sheila" [Blue Note] from 1962 with Swallow, Denzil Best and Barry Galbraith in different combinations.

Among Sheila's numerous students are Karin Plato in Vancouver and Lana Turner [not that one] here in Montreal and hundreds, including Theo Bleckmann, worldwide.

Check out some of the CDs and if you're in New York on November 18th head for the Jazz Standard and join in the celebration. I'll be there!

RON COLLIER [1930 -- 2003]

I was saddened to receive an email from my old Emanon Jazz Society buddy Peter Tiedemann that informed me of the death of RON COLLIER. Being unaware that Ron had been suffering from cancer, this came as quite a shock.

He died in Toronto on Wednesday, October 22nd at the age of 73, born in Coleman, Alberta on July 3, 1930. Important to his early career was time spent playing trombone with the Kitsilano Boys Band directed by Arthur Delamont. By 1951 Ron was in Toronto and studying with the influential composer Gordon Delamont, Arthur's son, as well as another influential Canadian composer, Norman Symonds whose octet he played in from 1952-57. Ron began leading his own groups in 1954 and in '57 premiered Symond's "Concerto Grosso for Jazz Quintet and Symphony Orchestra" with the Toronto Symphony. It was a radio broadcast of that piece that I believe first brought Ron to my attention. In the early 60s, during a trip to Toronto while working for Colin C. Kerr's "Laurentien" label, I got to hear a Collier led combo live, it was at the "First Floor Club" an after hours club and I remember an exciting group that included P.J. Perry, Bill Britto, Archie Alleyne and another important musician, ex-Montrealer MAURY KAYE, a pianist, who played both trumpet and French horn in this band. I got to meet him personally in 1963; it was on a morning when I arranged to meet Don Ellis at NY's Local 802 in the Roseland Ballroom. Don did the introductions -- Ron was in NY on a grant studying with George Russell and Hall Overton. The next encounter was at the Montreal World's Fair, "Expo 67" when Ron brought a big band into the Canadian Pavilion, a band that included Guido Basso and Freddie Stone, Butch Watanabe and Ray Sikora, Bernie Piltch, Gary Morgan, Ed Bickert, Lenny Boyd and Jerry Fuller. I remember a most interesting night spent with Ron and our wives at the British Pub on La Ronde where they served "Whitbread" product including one called "Final Selection", one that Pepper Adams' friend (Stanley) "Cookie" Mendel insisted on calling "Final Solution". That night Ron talked excitedly about a record session in Toronto in less than a week's time, a session that would have DUKE ELLINGTON appear as a piano soloist with Ron's orchestra on six compositions, two each by Collier, Delamont and Symonds. Now on CD as "North of the Border" (Attic). I wasn't to see him again until he played Oscar Peterson's "Canadiana Suite" with his big band at the Ottawa International Jazz Festival and then again when I attended a Herbie Spanier memorial night at the Rockit Tavern in Toronto in January 2002. From 1972-1994 Ron was an important part of the jazz program at Humber College in Toronto where he influenced a couple of generations of musicians and where a recent concert, one that guested Bill Holman, was dedicated to his memory. He's been described as a warm, direct man, let me add memorable. He leaves his wife Cathy [MacKinnon] Collier, children, Matthew and Jason, as well as his sister and brother-in-law, Margo [MacKinnon] and Al Baculis. A memorial evening is planned for Humber College in the near future.


On October 15, 1964 Ron was in the trombone section of a MART KENNEY band that recorded Ellington's "Creole Love Call" and Gershwin's "S' Wonderful" for CTL and in 1974 MOE KOFFMAN recorded Ron's "Jupiter" for his "Solar Explorations" release on GRT.

As a leader Collier left this legacy on record:

In 1959, on May 25, he did Norman Symonds' "Concerto Grosso for Jazz Quintet and Orchestra" with his quintet of Bernie Piltch, reeds, Ed Bickert, guitar, Bill Britto, bass and Ron Rully, drums joined by the CBC Symphony Orchestra directed by Victor Feldbrill and on December 9, the same quintet did four Collier compositions, "Quintet", "Weary Blue","Blue Boy" and "Blues on One Theme"

In 1961, on July 13, a quintet of Collier, Piltch, Maury Kaye, piano and French horn, Britto and drummer Archie Alleyne was joined by trumpeters Guido Basso and Jack Long, tenorman Bill Goddard, Jack Taylor on baritone and Bud Hill on tuba for "Strate Ahead" [Feyer] and "Home" [Adderley] plus Ron's "The Myth of the Maroyas" and, again, "Blues on One Theme".

In 1962 it was a septet consisting of Collier, Basso, Piltch, Taylor, Bickert, Britto and Alleyne that did Bird's "Barbados", Ellington's "Come Sunday" and Collier's "Two Shades of Blues", "Autumn Haze" and "Walkin' Out" All the above for CBC.

In 1965 for CTL [Canadian Talent Library] it was a tentet of Basso and Freddie Stone, Collier, Butch Watanabe and Ron Hughes, trombones, Piltch and Mort Ross, reeds, Bickert, Britto and Alleyne heard on "Lee's Lament", "Relaxin'", and [again] "Walkin' Out" plus a return to "Come Sunday", Norman Symonds' "Fair Wind", "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Charade" by Henri Mancini, Bernstein's "I Feel Pretty", Frank Loesser's "I Believe In You", Brown and Henderson's "The Thrill is Gone" and Sacha Burland's "Hockey Theme".

1967 was a busy year for Collier, the band that played on July 21 in the Canadian Pavilion at Expo 67 consisted of Basso, Stone and Erich Traugott, Watanabe, Sikora and Hughes, Piltch and Gary Morgan [baritone], Bickert, bassist Lenny Boyd and drummer Jerry Fuller and the CBC recorded them live at that concert [one I attended] doing Stone's "Stone Poem", Britto's "Psycolliergy", Gordon Delamont's "Collage" and "Centim" plus Collier's "Requiem for J.F.K.", "Waterfront", "Just About Now" and "Silent Night, Lonely Night" and then in Toronto on July 24 and 25, that band was joined [with strings on the first two items] by DUKE ELLINGTON guesting as a piano soloist on Symonds' "Nameless Hour" and Collier's "Aurora Borealis" on the 24th and on the following day, Delamont's "Collage #3" and "Song and Dance", Symonds' "Fair Wind" and Ron's "Silent Night, Holy Night". Originally issued on Decca, the CD of this one with an interview with Duke added, is on Attic.

In 1971, movie music from "Face Off" was released on Agincourt International done by a Ron Collier orchestra with a vocal by Frank Moore and Trudy Young heard on the final track. Ron wrote "The Hub", "Sweet and Tight" and "Nepanths Blues" while "Winter Comes Early" and "Happy To Be Near You" are by Moore.

During his days at Humber College, Collier did some recording with the students. In 1976, "First Take" was released by the College and among the students participating were John MacLeod, Al Kay, Vern Dorge, Bob DeAngelis and Nancy Walker heard singing on the Jerome Kern track. The titles:"Humber Suite, Part I" [Collier], "Basin Street Blues" [Williams], "My Ship" [Weill]. "Are You Ready" [Pease], "Lady Mac" [Ellington-Strayhorn], "Spain" [C. Corea], "You Can Depend On Me" [Fatha Hines], "Baltimore Oriole" [Carmichael], "Sam's Boogie" [Nestico] and "The Song Is You" [Kern]. In 1979 they did "Fusion" for the CCA label with many of the same musicians doing Bird's "Yardbird Suite", Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge", Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore", "Little Sunshower" by Freddie Hubbard, Jaco Pastorious' "Teen Town" and Victor Young's "Stella By Starlight" and in 1986 that college's "Humber at Expo 86" included Ron's "Never In Nevis" and his suite "Four Kisses" in honour of Duke Ellington.

He collaborated with Duke on a ballet "The River" and a symphonic work "Celebration" in 1972 and the former is included on volume five of Duke Ellington's "The Private Collection" [Unidisc]. In 1992 ROB McCONNELL's "Boss Brass" recorded Ron's extended arrangement of Bird's "Scrapple From The Apple" on "Brassy & Sassy" [Concord]. In 1997 in Vancouver, the Fred Stride Orchestra did Ron's scoring of Oscar Peterson's "Canadiana Suite" and Ron's own band recorded it twice in Toronto and it would be fitting to see that released posthumously and oh, yeah, there's a superb piece of TV that I was shown by its producer Paddy Sampson called "Tongues of Brass" -- that one should be in the CBC archives somewhere. My condolences to his family and his large extended family -- a great guy who shared his knowledge generously.

© Len Dobbin 2003
Montreal, Quebec, Canada