[Dixielandjazz] Jazz diva Shirley Horn dies at 71

Mike C. mike at michaelcryer.com
Fri Oct 21 19:13:36 PDT 2005

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Legendary singer and pianist
Shirley Horn, known for her deliberately slow renditions of jazz 
standards, has died at 71 in the Washington area, a member of her 
entourage said.

Horn died Thursday at 10:30 pm, according to Warren Shadd, a member of 
her family and former drummer in her band.

Horn had used a wheelchair for several years after the amputation of a 
foot because of diabetes. She also had breast cancer.

"I speak like I sing. I've always been a little slow, my friends laugh 
at that," Horn said in an interview with the US National Public Radio in 
September 2002.

"I don't much hurry because I do believe in time and space. I think I 
can paint that picture for you slowly so you can see."

She adopted the same patient attitude toward her career, forsaking the 
limelight to raise her daughter in the 1970s and 1980s, while 
occasionally performing closer to home.

"My mother was always home with a hot meal for me. I decided, let me 
slow up and do this. I would leave for some concerts, but never long 
stints," she said.

Born May 1, 1934, Horn grew up in Washington in a middle-class family 
and never moved out of the city.

Trained as a classical pianist, she studied music at Howard University 
and turned to jazz as a teenager, performing in Washington clubs.

Horn was discovered in 1960 by producer
Quincy Jones and legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, who were impressed by 
her first recording on a small, independent label. Davis invited her to 
perform with him at the famed Village Vanguard jazz club in New York City.

The owner of the club objected to having an unknown singer on stage, but 
Davis, who usually dismissed most vocalists, persisted.

"I went to open for Miles, I played 20 minutes because the guy didn't 
want me there in the first place," she said.

"Miles had to insist. He said: 'Either she does it or I don't,'" said 
Horn, who then made several recordings.

Davis recognized her singing style as similar to his own playing, using 
the silence between sounds to forge a dramatic effect.

Horn had her second breakthrough late in life, when she started 
recording for the Verve label in 1987 with the bassist and drummer with 
whom she had performed for years.

Speaking of her bassist, Charles Ables, and her drummer, Steve Williams, 
she said they hit a groove. "We kind of melted together musically."

"We moved as one. Sometimes it was like the best sex ever," she once 
told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Her most popular album, "You Won't Forget Me," featured a cameo by Miles 
Davis shortly before he died. Her tribute album to him, "I Remember 
Miles", won a Grammy award. A live recording in 1992 of a performance in 
Paris, "I Love You Paris," received wide acclaim.

In 1990, she was awarded the Prix Billie Holiday by France's Academie du 

Music, she said in an interview with NPR, is "food and water to me."

"It's when I feel more like me. That's what I remember first when I was 
a little girl, I remember being at that piano in my grandmother's parlor.

"It's not work to me, it's how I feel normal."

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