"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?”
All About Jazz
"The incandescence that was Shirley Horn, and her central importance to jazz vocals, cannot be overstated. She was a master, like Miles Davis and Ahmad Jamal, at retaining that elusive heartbeat called swing at the slowest tempos. Her ballad treatments may be traced, as a thread, through the approaches of Rebecca Parris, Patti Wicks, and Sue Sheriff. She was a musical force-of-nature, moving deliberately, thoughtfully, and soulfully forward.
Resonance Records, that upstart of hidden treasures helmed by Zev Feldman that unearthed the recently released Bill Evans - Some Other Time: The Lost Session from the Black Forest (2016), Thad Jones and Mel Lewis - All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings at the Village Vanguard (2016), and Stan Getz - Moment in Time (2016) has now done the same with unreleased Shirley Horn with Shirley Horn Live at the 4 Queens.
Horn's discography is light on live recordings, making Live at the 4 Queens and immediately valuable addition to her recorded oeuvre. It is a spirited recital of nine tunes by Horn and her long-time rhythm section of bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams recorded live at Las Vegas' The 4 Queens Hotel, May 2, 1988. Horn was in excellent health and voice during this period, showing off her ballad prowess on "Lover Man," "You'd be So Nice to Come Home To," and "Just for a Thrill," the last being played just fast enough to retain the pulse of jazz. It is a masterful performance.
But Horn is also capable of picking up the pace and swinging for the fences, as she does on "The Boy from Ipanema" and a tour-de-force "Isn't It Romantic," where she displays her considerable piano skills. One can never hear enough of unheard Shirley Horn."