A Labor of Love. Shirley Horn's 1991's You Won't Forget Me was one of the last recordings Miles Davis made. More significant was the broken promise that Miles had made a number of years previous that he would not return to the standards. A gratefully broken promise. He appeared on the title piece, a titan straddling the whole of jazz.
Shirley Horn opened for Miles at the Village Vanguard after Miles had heard her first recording, Embers and Ashes. He strong-armed a reluctant Max Gordon into the arrangement by telling him, "If you don't take her, you don't get me." Thus began one of the most enduring jazz friendships. Horn released this tribute seven years after his death, well after several less compelling tributes had already been forgotten.
Ballads, Ballads, Ballads. Shirley Horn is a consummate ballad vocalist. She is a conservative singer not prone to vocal fireworks. Her vaporous voice is perfect for the slow and medium tempo standards she sings. For her tribute, horn selects mostly ballads from Miles? Columbia Records stay. All of the pieces are uniformly excellent, though a few bear further mentioning. "My Funny Valentine" is performed very slowly, but Horn never allows it to drag. "I Fall in Love Too Easily" finds a muted Roy Hargrove quoting Miles' "Round About Midnight" solo in his own personal tribute. "Summertime" is brilliantly arranged with Ron Carter's impeccable time painting this picture with a whole new rhythm scheme. Toots Thielemans' harmonica caps one of the most perfect interpretations of this song I have heard.
The Standout. By far the most interesting and compelling piece is "My Man's Gone Now" performed more in a Cassandra Wilson manner than a straight ballad reading. This is no mere imitation of jazz deconstructed as has been made popular by Ms. Wilson. Horn changed her performance of this song after having heard Miles play it on the live We Want Miles in the early 80s ? deconstruction by the original deconstructionist. It is an ominous reading of an appropriately disintegrating song.
Alumni. Ms. Horn is joined by Charles Ables and Ron Carter on bass, Steve Williams and Al Foster on Drums. Roy Hargrove is on trumpet and there is a cameo appearances of the aforementioned Toots and tenor player Buck Hill on "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home." The rapport is comfortable between all concerned even on the double bass and double drums of "My Man is Gone."
Go. There is only one thing to do with this disc. Buy it. Period.
My Funny Valentine, I Fall in Love Too Easily, Summertime, Baby, Won't You Please Come Home, This Hotel, I Got Plenty of Nuttin', Basin Street Blues, My Man's Gone Now, Blue in Green.
Shirley Horn (vocals, piano); Roy Hargrove (trumpet, flugelhorn); Toots Thielemans (harmonica); Charles Ables, Ron Carter (bass); Steve Williams, Al Foster (drums).
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