The recording career of Shirley Horn, a gifted piano player and singer, took off with 1960’s Embers And Ashes, represented by the first 12 tracks on this release. Although it was very well received (including rare praise from Miles Davis), after a dozen or so years Horn had virtually retired, choosing family life over performing.
Then, in the early 1980s, she made a comeback both nationally and internationally and enjoyed her greatest successes as a recording artist and as a headliner at clubs and concert halls and on festival stages. Her singing voice, light, fluid and melodic, brought new life to material from the Great American Songbook.
Her interpretation of lyrics was especially notable, not only for her understanding and obvious appreciation of both their meaning and their poetical qualities, but also because her often slow delivery gave the listener time to hear and feel and also to think. This aspect of Horn’s style, her slow delivery, was greatly accentuated in later years, sometimes to extremes.
Although that style postdates these tracks, there are two instances that signal what was to come: Johnny Mercer and Jimmy Van Heusen’s I Thought About You and George Gershwin and Buddy DeSylva’s Do It Again.
Late in life, as sickness took hold, Horn gradually stopped playing piano, and it is good to hear just how good she was not only in her self-accompaniment but also as a soloist. She does not sing on Softly As In A Morning Sunrise and sings only a few lines at the end of Taste Of Honey. These are both very good examples of her playing skills. It is, though, her singing, always exceptionally good, that is on display here and this CD is very warmly recommended.
[Embers And Ashes] (1) Like Someone In Love; He Never Mentioned Love; Softly As In A Morning Sunrise; I Thought About You; Mountain Greenery; God Bless The Child; Blue City; (2) Day By Day; (1) If I Should Lose You; Wild Is The Wind; [Where Are You Going] (3) Come Rain Or Come Shine; (4) Where Are You Going; (3) Something Happens To Me; Come On Home; Do It Again; The Eagle And Me; (4) Taste Of Honey; (3) L.A. Breakdown; (4) Consequences Of A Drug Addict Role (73.17)
Horn (v, p) with:
(1) Joe Benjamin (b); Herb Lovelle (d). NYC, 1960.
(2) Lewis Packer (b); Harry Saunders (d). NYC, 1960.
(3) Al Gafa (g); Marshall T. Harris (b); Bernard Sweetney (d). NYC, 1972.
(4) as (3) Gafa out.
Fresh Sound FSR CD 1109