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Dena DeRose: We Won’t Forget You…An Homage to Shirley Horn

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It’s hard to imagine a better choice than Dena DeRose to honor Shirley Horn. The hushed grandeur and understated elegance that were Horn’s trademarks are just as present in DeRose’s playing and singing. Johnny Mandel once remarked that Horn had two heads, referring to her ability to craft self-accompaniment that seemed entirely independent from, yet remained utterly respectful to, her singing. DeRose shares that preternatural skill.

Horn favored the trio format, working for more than a quarter-century primarily with bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams. DeRose, too, has been blessed with stellar trio-mates, closing in on her first decade alongside bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson. Horn had no middle career, just beginning and end: DeRose draws extensively from both poles, extending from the lusty “Wild Is Love” recorded in 1963 to Mandel’s “Quietly There,” one of Horn’s most sublime signatures, from 1992.

Though Horn is best remembered as a balladeer, she could swing as expertly as Peggy Lee, a side DeRose ably captures across Peter Nero’s jaunty “Sunday in New York,” a sly, slithery “Don’t Be on the Outside” and the darkly sophisticated “The Great City.” And, her affection for the trio notwithstanding, Horn loved horns, recording with the likes of Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis. Nodding to Horn’s horn worship, DeRose invites three exemplary guests-Eric Alexander, Jeremy Pelt and Gary Smulyan-to enrich several of this intelligent homage’s 11 tracks.

Originally Published