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Jazz - Released May 4, 2018 | Verve Reissues

Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Jazz
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Jazz - Released September 16, 2016 | Resonance Records

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2003 | Verve

Shirley Horn has made a remarkably strong and consistent series of records for Verve. On May the Music Never End, her 12th record for Verve, there are two big changes: the absence of Horn's longtime musical partner bassist Charles Ables, who passed away in 2001, and the addition of a pianist to take the place of Horn's quite capable playing. Ed Howard fills in admirably on bass and George Mesterhazy does the same on piano, except for on two tracks ("Maybe September" and "This is All I Ask") where Ahmad Jamal takes over. Horn's trademark sound is the sparse, languid torch song, with atmospheric piano chords and her gentle and soulful vocals caressing the notes as she slowly lets them ease into the listener's ear. Most of the album is in this downcast, nocturnal mood: the highlights are her smoldering version of the Jacques Brel-Rod McKuen song "If You Go Away," the bossa nova-influenced "Watch What Happens," and the heartbreaking and bleak "Ill Wind." She also does a very nice job with the Gordon Jenkins-penned "September of My Years"-style ballad "This Is All I Ask" and the emotional "May the Music Never End." These two tracks taken together almost sound like Horn saying goodbye to music and the world of jazz and will really bring a lump to the throat of Horn fans. She breaks up the somber mood with a few swinging tracks: the rollicking take on "Forget Me"; the lightly swinging "Take Love Easy," with some nice Roy Hargrove obbligatos; and the martial "Everything Must Change," which features one of Horn's most dramatic vocals and a wonderful moment three and a half minutes into the song where the tight rhythm bursts open and the band hits a big up-tempo groove with Horn soaring over top. The only real clunker here is her version of the Beatles' "Yesterday," a song that has been done just about every way possible. Here Horn cuts the tempo, adds some atmosphere, and actually manages to over sing the song. Her voice pushes at the outer reaches of her range, but her phrasing is strangely urgent and she sounds old for the first time. It is a rare misstep on an otherwise very good record by one of the great underrated jazz singers. If it is indeed her swan song, then she went out the same way she came in: as a true classic. ~ Tim Sendra
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Vocal Jazz - Released November 4, 1991 | Verve Reissues

With 1991's You Won't Forget Me, Shirley Horn's star continued to rise. While mostly ballads, this recording also includes swinging takes on "I Just Found Out About Love" and "Foolin' Myself." Toots Thielemans stars with his distinctive harmonica sound on "Beautiful Love" and "Soothe Me," and the unmistakable trumpet of Miles Davis weaves around Horn's vocal on the title track. The opening medley moves from the almost-whispered ballad "The Music That Makes Me Dance," to a funkily midtempo "Come Dance with Me." "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" is absolutely gorgeous, with Wynton Marsalis stepping in to trade phrases with Horn's voice. The music here is mostly taken at a very leisurely tempo, and the spare arrangements allow plenty of room for the music to breathe, proving that less is often more. The only complaint is that such spaciousness generates is a certain sameness to the material, but this is leavened by the guest appearances of Thielemans, Davis, the brothers Marsalis, and tenorman Buck Hill. ~ Jim Newsom
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Vocal Jazz - Released March 13, 2001 | Verve Reissues

With the swanky midnight mood of their previous collaboration Here's to Life in mind, Shirley Horn and arranger Johnny Mandel go at it again -- a move that is sure to send her legions of latter-day fans into blissful orbit. This time, though, the six sophisticated string-laden ballads are interspersed with five relatively short, swinging numbers with just Horn, her trio, and various instrumental guests. As a result, you get a better balanced album, not weighted too much in one direction or another. Mandel's orchestrations are paragons of subtlety, sometimes creeping almost imperceptibly like a slow moving fog upon Horn's trio. Like his singer, Mandel respects the value of silence and space; they're a well matched pair, their different ideas of timing dovetail together neatly. Though some of us would have wanted Horn and her jazzmen to stretch out more on the small group tracks, they do serve effectively as breathers, or intermezzos, in between the languorous collaborations with Mandel. In lieu of the participation of Wynton Marsalis (who contributed to Here's to Life), Carl Saunders offers some soulful trumpet obbligato work on "Solitary Moon." Guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Brian Bromberg also appear on the small group tracks -- Malone even does a soft focused rockabilly thing on "Why Don't You Do Right?" -- while bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams stoke the rhythm in Horn's trio. Another worthy stylish outing for Horn. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1992 | Verve

Shirley Horn's meeting with a string section and an orchestra arranged by Johnny Mandel has some exquisite moments although sometimes it is just overly sweet. Horn recorded with her trio (which includes bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams) first, emphasizing slow ballads. Mandel used the pianist-vocalist's improvisations and chord voicings as the basis for his charts and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis took guest solos on "A Time for Love" and "Quietly There." Shirley Horn fans will love this CD (which includes such numbers as "Here's To Life," "How Am I To Know" and "If You Love Me") but no real surprises or contrast occurs. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released November 7, 1963 | Verve Reissues

Shirley Horn only recorded a few times early in her career before leaving music until her daughter was grown. This early date for Mercury, with little in the way of identified personnel, features arrangements by Billy Byers, Thad Jones, Don Sebesky, and Quincy Jones, though Horn is unfortunately only heard as a singer, even though she is listed as the pianist on the album cover. She excels throughout the sessions, but the arrangements tend to lean more toward pop than jazz, failing to take advantage of what is likely a crew of all-star horn soloists. Bobby Scott's piano playing is downright corny in "On the Street Where You Live" and "Mack the Knife," taking on more of a country flavor. Better tracks include "Come Dance With Me," and the slow, bluesy "After You've Gone." Long out of print, this album was finally reissued as one-half of a 1990 Verve CD compilation, though it has since been deleted as well. ~ Ken Dryden
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Verve

No thanks to the paucity of musical genius in the latter half of the 1990s, tribute albums to the departed just kept pouring forth, although in Shirley Horn's case, she was repaying an old personal debt to her subject. After all, it was Miles Davis who originally got Horn out of D.C. in 1960 as his opening act at the Village Vanguard and contributed his trumpet to one of her comeback albums (1990's You Won't Forget Me). Not only that, Horn's understated, laconic, deceptively casual ballad manner is a natural fit for the brooding Miles persona, and she doesn't have to change a thing in this relaxed, wistfully sung, solidly played collection. She doesn't actually perform any Davis compositions; everything here consists of standards that Miles covered or transformed in the 1950s, including three numbers from Porgy and Bess. Roy Hargrove adds his effective muted Miles imitations on "I Fall In Love Too Fast" and open flurries on "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'"; and Toots Thielemans makes like a long, lonesome train whistle on "Summertime." Former Davis cohorts Ron Carter and Al Foster join the rhythm section in a remarkably searching, extended "My Man's Gone Now," the only track which takes note of the electric music that consumed so much of Miles' output (in this case, inspired by the We Want Miles version, not the more familiar Gil Evans interpretation). In a sad way, the very idea of a Miles tribute is an oxymoronic denial of the ever-restless spirit of this genius who didn't believe in looking backwards. But Shirley Horn certainly serves the man's sensitive side well. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 1989 | Verve

Shirley Horn's second Verve recording consolidated the success that she had had with her previous release, I Thought About You, and resulted in her gaining a large audience for her ballad vocals and solid jazz piano playing. Performing with her usual trio (which includes bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams) and guest tenor Buck Hill on five of the 13 tracks, Horn is heard in definitive form throughout these studio sessions. Highlights include "Beautiful Friendship," "Baby, Baby All the Time," "This Can't Be Love," "I Wanna Be Loved," "But Beautiful," "Get out of Town," and "It Could Happen to You." ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1997 | Verve

Shirley Horn continues in a formula that has become very popular for her. De-emphasizing her piano, Horn sings one very slow ballad after another. The intimate music, which features her trio members, percussionist Alex Acuna and most prominently the keyboards and orchestrations of George Mesterhazy, has very little variety and should be listened to in small doses. Horn's singing is full of subtle emotion and sensuality, particularly on such numbers as Jobim's "Someone To Light Up My Life," Lil Green's "In The Dark," "Kiss And Run" and "The Island," but no real surprises occur and the consistently dreamy mood has the potential to become quite sleepy. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 2, 2014 | Audiophile

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1994 | Impulse!

This CD reissue brings back a historic session, vocalist/pianist Shirley Horn's last before she drifted into semi-retirement so she could raise her daughter. Her sidemen on this date include trumpeter Joe Newman, flutists Frank Wess and Jerome Richardson, and guitarist Kenny Burrell, but the main star throughout is Horn. Not all of the material is equally strong and none of the very concise dozen performances clocks in at even three minutes, so this is not an essential session. But Shirley Horn fans and completists will want the generally enjoyable vocal date. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1999 | Verve

Verve's Ultimate Shirley Horn may not live up to its billing, but the budget-priced collection is nevertheless a terrific introductory sampler. Diana Krall selected the 17 songs on the compilation; she also wrote the liner notes, and she has done an excellent job of summarizing Horn's latter-day recordings for Verve, which is when Horn truly began to hit her stride. Some may argue that a favorite or two are missing, but by and large, these 17 songs capture the essence of Horn, which is enough to make this a worthwhile sampler. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Jazz - Released September 9, 1995 | Verve Reissues

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1999 | Verve

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2005 | Verve

When vocalist/pianist Shirley Horn resurfaced after a long spell away from the recording studio and signed with Verve Records in 1987, the jazz world at large discovered what many of Horn's devoted followers already knew: that she is a huge talent and one of the great jazz singers to follow in the footsteps of legends like Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. On her records for Verve, Horn never dazzles with flawless technique or stunning vocal tricks. Instead, she enthralls the listener with her intimate delivery and her understated yet almost visceral emotional power. Since that first record in 1987, she has released a string of good-to-excellent records, and But Beautiful: The Best of Shirley Horn on Verve compiles some of the finest moments from them, including the lovely "You Won't Forget About Me," which features Miles Davis on trumpet, maybe the best take on "Fever" since Peggy Lee's, the achingly slow and torchy "But Beautiful," and the lightly swinging "Come and Dance with Me," a track that shows that while Horn's main strength is ballads she also can swing like nobody's biz. The disc also gives a tiny taste of Horn's '60s sound with the inclusion of "The Great City" from 1963's Shirley Horn with Horns and has three bonus tracks recorded live in 2005 with a tight combo that show Horn has a surplus of style and class. ~ Tim Sendra
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Jazz - Released September 21, 1993 | Verve

For this change of pace, singer/pianist Shirley Horn performs 15 songs associated with Ray Charles. Of course, Horn sounds nothing like Charles, but she sometimes captures his spirit on such songs as "Hit the Road, Jack," "You Don't Know Me" (which finds her switching to organ), "Makin' Whoopee" and "How Long Has This Been Going On." Joined by her regular trio (with bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Willliams), some of the songs have Ables switching effectively to guitar, while Tyler Mitchell fills in on bass. Altoist Gary Bartz guests on five of the dozen selections. While emphasizing ballads, as one always expects, this is a fun set that includes more medium-tempo tunes than usual for a Shirley Horn set. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released March 3, 1987 | Verve Reissues

This live set (recorded at Hollywood's Vine St. Bar and Grill) was Shirley Horn's "comeback" album after many years in which she purposely maintained a low profile as she raised her daughter. Typical of Horn's music ever since, she sings intimate ballads with her trio (which includes bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams) and plays very effective piano behind her vocals, taking "Isn't It Romantic" as an instrumental. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released February 14, 1963 | Verve Records

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Vocal Jazz - Released June 7, 2018 | nagel heyer records