Shirley Horn: The queen of silence and anticipation
The late Shirley Horn had a jazz career that most musicians could only dream of, but it wasn't a straight trajectory. Her route to jazz stardom had twists and turns, a long hiatus and a late career resurgence that yielded some of her finest work.
On this Crate Digging episode of Jazz Night in America, we uncover a brilliant late-career moment from Jazz at Lincoln Center's inaugural season, in 1991. The concert featured her longtime trio, with drummer Steve Williams and the late bassist Charles Ables. They were joined onstage by a few of Ms. Horn's illustrious admirers: trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and the late harmonica master Toots Thielemans.
This performance perfectly illustrates why Horn is considered a "musician's musician" in the first place. Miles Davis was an early champion, and remained a lifelong fan. Quincy Jones produced some of her first recordings. But for a variety of reasons, it took nearly three decades for her to finally get her due.
Neither just a singer nor just a pianist, Horn uniquely fused the two, and could deliver a lyric like no other. "The way she could sustain suspense, control emotions, and lead you to that peak," marvels our host, Christian McBride. "That's one of the most masterful things an artist can do." That's Shirley Horn.
Shirley Horn, piano, vocals; Charles Ables, bass; Steve Williams, drums
Featuring: Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Branford Marsalis, tenor saxophone; Buck Hill, tenor saxophone; Toots Thielemans, harmonica
Writer and Producer: Sarah Geledi; Producer: Alex Ariff; Consulting Editor: Katie Simon; Concert Engineer: Jim Anderson; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Director of NPR Music: Keith Jenkins; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand.
Special thanks to Rainy Williams.
Copyright 2023 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.