Jazz pianist and singer Shirley Horn died of complications from diabetes last Thursday at a Cheverly, Maryland, nursing home. She was seventy-one.
Born in Washington, D.C., in 1934, Horn began playing the piano at the age of four and later studied classical piano as a teenager at Howard University. In 1954 she led her own jazz trio, and she recorded her first album, Embers and Ashes, for the small Stere-o-Craft label in 1960. Miles Davis heard the album and beckoned Horn to New York, where she opened for the jazz legend at the Village Vanguard and was subsequently signed to Mercury Records.
By the mid-Sixties, Horn stopped touring in favor of staying in the Washington area to raise her daughter Rainy. After an extended hiatus, Horn revived her career with a New York performance at Michael’s Pub in 1982, and signed with Verve four years later.
Horn released eleven albums with Verve, including 1990’s You Won’t Forget Me, featuring appearances by Davis and Wynton Marsalis, and 1998’s Grammy-winning I Remember Miles. The Kennedy Center paid tribute to Horn in 2004, and she was awarded a Jazz Master Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts earlier this year.
Horn is survived by her husband, daughter and several grandchildren.