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Shirley Horn: Live at the 4 Queens

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In the wake of stunning discoveries from Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan and other luminaries, Resonance Records continues to exercise its preternatural skill at unearthing lost treasures with these nine tracks, recorded by pianist-vocalist Shirley Horn at the 4 Queens-one of the few Las Vegas spots to have proactively supported jazz performers during its history.

As anyone familiar with Horn’s history knows, her career built steadily from the mid-1950s through the early ’60s, but she opted to curtail touring and recording to focus on her family, and remained in semi-retirement through the early ’80s. Indeed, it wasn’t until her signing with Verve in 1986 that her stunning renaissance began. This 54-minute set captures Horn near the onset of her mighty resurgence, one day after her 54th birthday in May of 1988. She’s fronting one of the all-time tightest trios, with her loyal rhythm team of bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams.

Horn’s incomparable vocal style, snail slow and cashmere soft, is gorgeously exercised across ballads (“Just for a Thrill,” “Lover Man” and Tom Jobim’s tender “Meditation”) and perkier selections (“You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” and, a second nod to Jobim, “The Girl From Ipanema”). But this collection is as much a showcase for her instrumental artistry, including her opening salvo, a jaunty rendition of Randy Weston’s “Hi-Fly”; her closing statement, Oscar Peterson’s vibrant, roiling “Blues for Big Scotia”; and, mid-set, a densely imaginative, 10-minute treatment of “Isn’t It Romantic?”

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Originally Published