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Swing Music Net Biography
Shirley Horn
Jazz Vocalist and pianist Shirley Horn
Shirley Horn
Regarded as the premiere singing pianist in jazz since Nat "King" Cole
The use of pauses and breaks in her playing and singing ala Basie and Ahmad Jamal conveyed a relaxed, confident feeling of swing.
Shirley Horn
Horn, Shirley
composer, singer, pianist
Born; Washington, D,C., 5-1-1934
Died; Washington, D,C., 10-20-2005
Radio Show Audio Archives
Streaming high quality copies of our weekly jazz radio shows available to internet listeners via RealOne Player. Radio the way it's supposed to be, unscripted and unrehearsed. Due to bandwidth limitations potato salad no longer included with transmission.

Our Jazz Radio Show Info Page
The sordid history of our weekly big band music radio show, live since 1985. Proves that FCC radio deregulation survival may be linked to narcissistically twisted disorders.

Pre Swing Era Jazz History
Early hot jazz bands, the hotel dance bands and early jazz history leading up to the Big Band era.

Pre Swing Era World Report
The role of economics, early recording technology, and radio relative to the conception of the Big Band era.

The Recording Ban Of 1942
Scans of a 1942 Down Beat magazine article detailing one of the most devastating events of the Big Band era; the James Petrillo / AFM recording ban.

Webb Cuts Basie At The Savoy
Another of the many historic jazz magazine articles from Down Beat here on the site. This piece details the Count Basie vs. Chick Webb big band music Battle Of Swing held at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom in January of 1938.

A child prodigy, Shirley Horn began playing piano at age 4 and the next year started formal musical training. She became so obsessed with the piano that her mother offered her bribes in an attempt to get her away from the instrument so she would play with the neighborhood children.

At just 12 years of age Horn studied composition at Howard University and at 18 was awarded a scholarship to study at Julliard in New York. Unfortunately her family was unable to afford her money for living conditions in New York. Instead she entered a special music studies class at Howard, leaving after several years to work full time in Washington D.C.

In 1960 Horn traveled to New York to record her first album “Embers And Ashes.” Although the record appeared on only a small label and received limited distribution it immediately established her as a gifted and sensitive jazz artist. So impressed was Miles Davis when he heard the disc he brought Shirley back to New York to appear with him at the Village Vanguard, a popular jazz venue in the city. Soon she was working in major clubs throughout the U.S., recording with Quincy Jones for Mercury Records, and singing on the movie soundtracks of “For Love Of Ivy” and “A Dandy In Aspic.”

Creative differences with Mercury and domestic life, in particular her young daughter Rainy, called her back home, and for more than a decade, she restricted her appearances to Washington D.C. area clubs and concerts.

In 1981, Paul Acket, director of Holland’s North Sea Jazz Festival, caught her impromptu performance at a Jazz Times convention at the Shoreline Hotel. He arranged for her European debut at the Holland festival, where delighted audiences and overwhelming critical approval inspired her to revitalize her career.

With her daughter Rainy grown and married, herself the mother of two children; Horn was now at ease to go back on the road. She was soon working with her trio at some of the most prestigious jazz clubs and she recorded four albums. Her association with Verve records, beginning in 1986, cemented her rise in popularity and helped establish her as a top-notch artist worthy of national and worldwide notoriety and fame.

In later years, Ms. Horn performed with artists ranging from Davis, who reunited with her for a rare appearance as a sideman on her 1991 album ``You Won't Forget Me,'' to Wynton Marsalis.

She was nominated for multiple Grammys and won the award in 1991 for best jazz vocal performance. In 2004, Horn was honored by National Endowment for the Arts as a jazz master.

Shirley Horn’s piano playing drew on the influences of Ahmad Jamal and Wynton Kelly. Her intricacies in harmony bring to mind Duke Ellington. Her notes were always chosen wisely, placed expertly at well-chosen times. She had the rare ability to utilize rhythm through silence much as Count Basie and the aforementioned Jamal. Although these behemoths may come to mind when listening to Horn, she claimed the utilization of those manifestations as very much her own art. She was not an imitator.

Vocally Shirley Horn does not sound like anyone else. Although the way she carried out her vocals was akin to the personal relationship and intensity one feels when listening to Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, King Cole, or even Louis Armstrong; Shirley Horn was an original. Not a scat vocalist but rather a sensitive vocalist: she presented her lyrics with improvisational bending and changing of notes in an artistic style that is the essence of true jazz.

Shirley Horn died Thursday night October 20th, 2005 in her native Washington, D.C., after a long illness.

Click here to read one of the finest Shirley Horn biographies on the net from the Washington Post.

Anita O’Day Biography
Not your typical big band “canary” Anita’s voice was heard soaring over the brassy bands of Gene Krupa and Stan Kenton during the Swing era. She later released a number of fine swinging albums for Norman Granz on his Clef, Norgran and Verve record labels. She died 11-23-06 at 87.

Ray Charles Biography
Known as "The Genius" Ray Charles recorded a wide variety of music but got his start playing big band music and jazz. He passed away 6-10-04.

Louis Armstrong Biography
The trumpet solos and vocals of the great Satchmo are the most identifiable in jazz. This biography traces the career of Louis Armstrong from his days in New Orleans.

Dakota Staton Biography
In her early career Dakota Staton showed the influences of Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan. In later years her huskier tone leaned more toward blues and gospel. Discography is included.

Nina Simone Biography
Nina Simone was a classically trained pianist who switched to jazz. Throughout her career she crossed over into many other genres of music. Her jazz discography is included here.

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