I just heard that one of my favourite Jazz pianists and vocalists, Shirley Horn, has died at age 71. I can think of few people who have mastered the mingling of voice and piano -in any musical genre- to quite the level she had. She’s one of the first vocalists (or pianists) I think of reaching for when I want to immerse myself in some musical work that is clear and uncluttered, slow and unhurried. Her phrasing is just incredibly thoughtful. Her clever use of space is up there with Miles Davis’, and indeed he loved her work (he was not a big fan of singers in general – early Sinatra is one of the few other vocalists I can think of that he liked, again for great phrasing) and he encouraged her early in her career.
Here’s a website with a discography. Two of my later favourites are Softly, and You Won’t Forget Me. Have a look at today’s Washington Post article on her life. You can also find video, audio and a transcript of a PBS Newshour Jim Lehrer 2004 interview with her here.
May she live on through her wonderful music. She can end this post better than I can, from words of the song Here’s To Life that often ring in my head:
No complaints and no regrets; I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets…
Here’s to life — here’s to love — here’s to you.