“Songs are lucky when Shirley Horn chooses them.”
This is one of the best quotes that describe the magic of Shirley Horn’s music. The past few weeks have definitely been an education for me in Shirley Horn’s music. Thanks to everyone for their encouragement and support on this project. Preparing the final disc in My Shirley Horn Box Set was quite a challenge because her music pulls me in every direction. I thought about doing all ballads for the last disc but I like mixing her swinging tunes with her signature ballads. I originally wanted to put just 15 songs on each radio blog but as I would create the playlist, another song would pop in my head that I would just have to include. I created this playlist a few weeks ago so I would at least have a framework in place. I knew which songs I wanted to begin and end with but it was the selection of the songs in between start and finish that kept me scratching my head. Over the course of this adventure, I have managed to pull at least one song from almost every Shirley Horn CD I own. Hopefully, more of her music will be released from the vaults especially her first album, Embers and Ashes, which recently sold for $177.50 on eBay. I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have enjoy sharing it. If I have missed one of your favorites, don’t worry for I will be sharing more of Shirley’s music in future radio blogs. Now sit back in your home or cubicle, turn the lights down low and enjoy the “whispery voice that conjured cashmere and cognac”, Ms. Shirley Valerie Horn.
My Shirley Horn Box Set – Disc 4 (listen here!)
01 – Shirley Horn – “The Music That Makes Me Dance” from You Won’t Forget Me (1991) – There is a natural build to a Shirley Horn ballad that is demonstrated here. She introduces the verse and each time she repeats it, there is a little more intensity until it reaches the boiling point but she never breaks a sweat. Just as quickly she brings the fire back down to simmer without missing a beat.
02 – Shirley Horn – “Come Dance With Me” from You Won’t Forget Me (1991) – This is the companion song to “The Music That Makes Me Dance.” The pairing of the two songs is quite exquisite. Shirley originally recorded this song on her Shirley Horn with Horns album released in 1963.
03 – Shirley Horn – “Green(It’s Not Easy Being Green)” from Light Out of Darkness: A Tribute to Ray Charles (1993) – We commonly know this as the “Kermit the Frog” song but Shirley was inspired to record it after hearing Ray Charles sing it. From the liner notes she says: “I didn’t pay too much attention to it until I heard Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street do it then I heard Ray do it. It was then when I started to think about the lyric”, recalls the singer. “Look at my house – it’s green, but it’s not just because I love the color green. The lyric goes: ‘Green is the color of the leaves/Green can be cool and friendly-like/Green is big like a mountain, deep like the ocean and tall like a tree/Green is all there is to be.’ Why not be green? I listen to the lyrics because they are so important to me – because I’m green.”
04 – Shirley Horn – “That Old Black Magic” from Loads of Love + Shirley Horn with Horns (1963) – I love the way this song fades in with Shirley’s sultry vocals over a very nice bossa nova groove.
05 – Shirley Horn – “How Long Has This Been Going On” from Softly (1988) – For this beautiful ballad, Shirley chose to sing an alternate lyric that was written for Audrey Hepburn to sing in the 1957 movie “Funny Face.”
06 – Shirley Horn – “I’m Old Fashioned” from A Lazy Afternoon (1978) – This swinging tune comes from her first of four albums for SteepleChase. It features Buster Williams on bass and Billy Hart on drums.
07 – Shirley Horn – “So I Love You” from Close Enough for Love (1989) – This was the premiere of this song with music and lyrics by Carroll Coates, who wrote “London by Night” and the lyric for Peter Nero’s “Sunday in New York” (which Shirley recorded on her Travelin’ Light album.)
08 – Shirley Horn – “I Just Found Out About Love” from You Won’t Forget Me (1991) – Another swinging tune from this great album. Shirley accompanies herself on piano incredibly well but that is a given (big grin!!)
09 – Shirley Horn – “A Taste of Honey” from Where Are You Going? (1972) – This song opens showcasing Shirley classical training then shifts to a rhythm that is reminiscent of Miles Davis’ “All Blues” and closes with a quiet verse that is as sweet as honey.
10 – Shirley Horn – “You’d Be So Nice To Home To” from All Night Long (1981) – Shirley and her trio recorded this Cole Porter tune at the Northsea Jazz Festival in Holland.
11 – Shirley Horn – “In The Dark” from Loving You (1997) – The last time I saw Shirley in concert earlier this year, she paid tribute to Ray Charles with a spirited version of this song.
12 – Shirley Horn – “Just In Time” from I Love You, Paris (1994) – The piano intro on this jaunty tune is very similar to “Nice ‘n’ Easy.” Shirley recorded this song during her 2 and 1/2 hour concert at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, France on March 7, 1992.
13 – Shirley Horn – “I Wanna Be Loved” from Close Enough for Love (1989) – Shirley smolders on this Johnny Green-Billy Rose-Edward Heyman standard. She sings “I feel like acting my age. I’m past the stage of merely turtledoving.”Now can someone tell what “turtledoving” means? I imagine it to be one of those polite words of the golden age to describe romance.
14 – Shirley Horn – “Our Love Is Here To Stay” from I Thought About You: Live at Vine St. (1987) – A Gershwin gem from her debut Verve album.
15 – Shirley Horn – “I Got Lost in His Arms” from Your My Thrill (2001) – Shirley orginally recorded this Irving Berlin tune on her Close Enough for Love album. For this rendition, Johnny Mandel clothes her vocals with beautiful orchestration.
16 – Shirley Horn – “Loads of Love” from But Beautiful – The Best of Shirley Horn (2005) – After listening to this song and hearing Shirley say “well, that’s it”, I imagine this to be the closing song for one of her nights of live recording at Au Bar in New York City in January 2005. You can tell she was having a fun time on this tune. She originally recorded this Richard Rodgers song on her Loads of Love album so it is great to hear her fresh take on this classic song.
17 – Shirley Horn – “Dindi” from All of Me (1987) – Shirley handles this Jobim classic with velvet gloves. She also has a beautiful piano solo. This album is a Japanese import and I was able to find it on eBay.
18 – Shirley Horn – “I’ve Got Plenty O’ Nothin'” from I Remember Miles (1998) – Shirley received nine consecutive Grammy nominations for her Verve recordings and received a Grammy for this tribute album to her friend and mentor, Miles Davis. This album includes mostly ballads but Shirley swings here. Roy Hargrove is featured on trumpet.
19 – Shirley Horn – “Blue in Green” from I Remember Miles (1998) – There is poignant moment in this instrumental ballad when Shirley pauses and sings, ” honey from a horn so sweet” which expresses her love for Miles Davis. You could easily imagine her voice as horn.
20 – Shirley Horn – “May The Music Never End” from May the Music Never End (2003) – A very reflective title song that conveys a powerful message, “may the music never end.” It was composed by Artie Butler who also composed “Here’s to Life” which has become Shirley’s signature ballad.
Thank you Shirley!