SHIRLEY HORN: May The Music Never End

by Charwin Nah


Stanley Crouch says of SHIRLEY HORN: "...One of her special gifts, when she decides to be what they used to call a torch singer, is her ability to make a song almost into a speech, with notes quite subtly sneaking into the words.  She can either declaim or give a melancholy monologue or let you in on a secret or, best of all, push through recollection with such pleasant authority that SHIRLEY HORN can give you the impression that all of that feeling is meant for only the two ears that you possess.  She is an artist.  She is a mystery.  She is a miracle."

As I sit and listen to Ms. Horn, I am still in awe at how someone, who should have been set back by adversity (poor vision and an amputated leg), still gives so much?  However, listening to her latest project, May The Music Never End - recorded in February 2003 and featuring George Mesterhazy & Ahmad Jamal on piano; Ed Howard on bass; Steve Williams on drums; and Roy Hargrove on flugelhorn - puts me in the mindset of the hurt or the hurting.  Horn makes me identify with the pain and hurt from being in love or having experienced love at one point in life.

On the first two cuts, "Forget Me" and "If You Go Away", her approach is intensely deliberate as she tells her love that she could never forget him and, in the "shadow of his dog", he might have kept her by his side.  What she then does to Paul McCartney's "Yesterday" is incredible.  As Crouch says, she has transformed this song in a "speech".  In my humble opinion, she laments his reason for leaving and leaves you spellbound by the instrumentation and timing.

On the cut titled "Maybe September", she delivers an optimistic vista on love.  She gives life to the thought of impending love.

Now, I thought no one could perform "Everything Must Change" quite like Oleta Adams.  Well, no one actually takes you to church on that song like Oleta does.  But we are not talking about church-going Oleta now, are we?  The percussion brings to mind Jack London's "Call of the Wild" which, being an African, is not a phrase I would probably use.  But the percussive opening reminds me of the days of old when the tribes were called together for a meeting with the drum.  This meeting, in my mind, that SHIRLEY HORN has called, is to remind us that the one constant in life is CHANGE.  And the jazz infusion takes it over the top.

Her final "speech" on the CD is "May The Music Never End".  In my opinion, SHIRLEY HORN is quite convincing that the music, indeed, will NEVER end.


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