No jazz singer ever sang as softly and slowly and with such subtle command as Shirley Horn. Her voice often just above a whisper, she forced audiences to hush up and pay attention as she delivered lyrics without flash or pretense, but with a knowing sense of life lived and dues paid.
Three years to the month of her passing in 2005, it’s a gift for Horn’s devotees to have a chance to hear this collection of previously unreleased material. Live at the 1994 Monterey Jazz Festival captures Horn during a high point in her career, when the then-60-year-old singer was enjoying much-belated acclaim thanks to a successful series of albums for Verve.
Backed by longtime trio mates Charles Ables on bass and Steve Williams on drums and accompanying herself ably on piano, Horn swings smoothly and with seeming effortlessness on mid-tempo standards like “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “Hard Hearted Hannah” and “Nice ‘n’ Easy,” a tune that could be her theme song. But it’s on ballads, even somewhat maudlin ones like “Here’s to Life” and Leon Russell’s “A Song for You” that she really shines, as she mines the lyrics for every drop of wistfulness and melancholy. A bravura performance from a unique and dearly missed artist.
Introduction, Foolin’ Myself, The Look of Love, How Am I to Know, L.A. Breakdown (and Take Me In), Nice ‘n’ Easy, A Song for You, I’ve Got the World on a Sting, Here’s to Life, Hard Hearted Hannah, Blues for Big Scotia.
Shirley Horn: piano, vocals; Charles Ables: bass; Steve Williams: drums.
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