COMPOSERS: Ray Charles
PERFORMER: Shirley Horn (p, org, voc ); Gary Bartz (as); Charles Ables, Tyler Mitchell (b); Steve Williams (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 519 703-2
There was a time when jazz singing was dominated by Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and the sainted, metamorphic afterlife of Billie Holiday who died in 1959.
The Holiday image remains, but has now been claimed as the expiation of guilt for the sins of white against black, while Sarah Vaughan died in 1990 and Ella ceased public performance in early 1993. The dominance of these three grande dames, who had been around since the notion of jazz singing itself was codified, was such that the spotlight never reached past them to pick out the singers who had emerged behind them.
It was a shame, since they blotted out such great talents as Betty Carter and Shirley Horn, who are only now receiving praise that should have come their way years ago. Horn, who claimed Miles Davis as a fan in 1961 and secured his services for a rare guest appearance on her 1991 You Won’t Forget Me, is, like the late lamented trumpeter, a minimalist. She pares a song down to its very essence, so that only the essential lifelines remain.
These she traces with a husky intimacy that is as engaging as it is beguiling. Light Out of Darkness, a tribute to Ray Charles, is her fifth album for Verve and her best. It illuminates every aspect of her unique style; her profound sense of time and timing and a salty sexuality that acknowledges the facts of life. Stuart Nicholson