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Shirley Horn
Remembering Miles,  Verve CD 314 557 199-2, 1998

 Personal appreciation of one master by another

In a way, Shirley Horn is the perfect singer to record a tribute to the music of Miles Davis, since she’s the woman with the Horn (in her name). I realize that this statement is a really bad play on words. Nevertheless, Horn is still more than qualified for the job. From jazz’s incarnation, singers have always tried to imitate the sounds made by instrumentalists, so an album such as this one should come as no surprise to anyone.

"Remembering Miles" is a nine-song collection of great songs and great singing in which Horn is supported by an all-star musical cast. In addition to her own underrated piano playing, she is joined by Roy Hargrove on trumpet, Charles Ables and Davis alumnus Ron Carter on bass, and both Al Foster and Steve Williams on drums. Toots Thielemans even contributes guitar on "Summertime."

Right off the bat, this recording opens with a surprisingly wistful rendition of "My Funny Valentine." Instead of wallowing in melodrama so often applied to these minor chords, Horn leaves a lot of space between her phrases, and never lets you forget that, after all, this is a love song.

One of the great beauties of jazz is that it rarely restricts itself to pop music’s self-imposed three-minute song limitations. For example, "Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home" lasts a good long 7:21, and "My Man’s Gone" clocks in at 10:39. "Baby" begins with an unhurried piano intro from Horn before her sultry vocals take over, while "My Man’s Gone" milks the interplay between Horn’s voice and Hargrove’s trumpet counterpoint for all its worth.

As these song examples imply, Horn’s memories of Miles are rooted in his pre-fusion jazz days, so don’t expect her take on "Bitches Brew" anytime soon. Instead, enjoy the sharp ear for interpretation she shares with the late great master.– Dan MacIntosh

 Glenn Brooks says... Regarding the three-minute pop song limit. Those who don’t like jazz will complain that the players go on and  on, rather than getting to the point. But (recorded) jazz once had a three-minute rule too, because that was the time available on one side of a 78 r.p.m. record. So, Duke Ellington’s 1940 masterpiece "Cotton Tail" clocks in at 3:08, but covers an entire universe in its breadth. Still, pop tunes do tend to be shorter than jazz tunes. Attention span, perhaps?

Copyright © 1999 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.