Sunday, May 01, 2022

Crown of Horn

We'll wrap up International Jazz Weekend here -- as well as make a move on the Mayday madness -- with this birthday screed about one of the true one-offs.

There are vocalists.... and then there are pianists.... and then there are pianists who accompany themselves as they sing the song. Then there's today's birthday person.

Because she had an entirely different approach to it.

To do what she did with a song -- in particular, ballads -- it would take a unique talent among talents.

There's been no other performer of our lifetimes I can think of who could suspend time and space like she did, letting a melody stretch and hang and move around the lyric so freely.

She was adored by Miles Davis, and the way she phrased and draped the piano around that phrasing is all the indication anyone might need of why.

Beginning in the early 1960s, and through her passing in 2005, there was simply no one else like Shirley Horn, who was born this day in 1934.

To celebrate what would have been her 88th birthday today, I've prepared a couple of unbelievable France Musique rebroadcasts of shows from 30+ years ago that feature her at the peak of her considerable prowess, weaving a spell over two enraptured audiences until they are suspended aloft like puffy clouds on a Spring day.

Shirley Horn Trio + Toots Thielemans
France 1991

Festival Banlieues Bleues
Théâtre Louis Aragon
Tremblay-en-France, France

01 The Music That Makes Me Dance
02 Come Dance with Me
03 Nice 'N' Easy
04 Change Partners
05 A Beautiful Friendship
06 Just for a Thrill
07 Just In Time
08 Do It Again
09 Foolin' Myself
10 Blues In the Closet
11 How Long Has This Been Going On?
12 All Blues
13 Soothe Me
14 Close Your Eyes
15 For My Lady
16 Love Is Here to Stay
17 For All We Know
18 Blues for Big Scotia
19 Once In a While

Total time: 1:41:10

Festival Jazz à Vienne
Vienne, France

01 I Just Found Out About Love
02 The Look of Love
03 Change Partners
04 Yesterday 
05 The Boy from Ipanema 
06 This Can't Be Love
07 A Song for You 
08 A Taste of Honey 
09 Blues for Big Scotia
10 For All We Know 

Total time: 1:24:57
for 3 seamless CDs, disc breaks can go after Track 09 of the 4.5.1991 performance and Track 02 of the 7.1.1991 performance

Shirley Horn - piano & vocals
Charles Ables - bass
Steve Williams - drums
Toots Thielemans - harmonica (Tracks 10-19 of the 4.5.1991 performance)

two France Musique FM rebroadcasts from 2018 & 2020, captured digitally
track transitions somewhat smoothed by EN, April 2022

These shows are a primary indicator of what she did and how she did it, and would make both a splendid introduction to her stuff for the uninitiated, as well as a welcome addition to anyone's collection who's been obsessed with her for years, like I have.

Heck, Toots Thielemans -- yes, the master of the harmonica who'd have turned 100 two days ago!!!! -- even shows up to sit in on one of these concerts, as if you needed one more reason to want to hear them.
I took the liberty of working on the applause between songs, doing my best "Eddie Kramer mixes Kiss Alive!" magic to get it better paced and not as quick from one tune to the next. These France Musique jams can be like that, once you take out the French John Peels with their between-song pâtisserie... the only DJ chatter left in is at the very start of the 2nd show for these, though.

I'm gonna go look at the merry Mayhem now and figure out what shows to share this month, but you're a fool if you don't check out Miss Shirley here, who's obviously in no danger of being forgotten anytime soon by anyone not a fool.--J.

5.1.1934 - 10.20.2005