SHIRLEY HORN'S latest album completes a circle begun 25 years ago when the Washington vocalist and pianist recorded for the first time.
While in the studio, Horn met Curtis Lewis, the black Broadway composer whose five-song suite "The Garden of the Blues" fills one side of this live recording. The remaining pieces were also written by Lewis, whose gift for composing exquisitely crafted songs was apparently matched only by his taste in vocalists.
But it wasn't until recently, long after Lewis' death, that Horn had a chance to document his work at length. The result is a musical marriage made in heaven.
Horn renders Lewis' words with great sensitivity and expression, not just as a vocalist with a sublime voice but as a pianist who knows how to underscore a lyric in the most subtle and telling fashion. Sometimes the sheer weight of Lewis' lyrics causes a momentary hitch in Horn's delivery, but then that's to be expected in a concert setting. What isn't to be expected -- indeed, what is quite extraordinary -- is the breathtaking intimacy and emotion Horn conveys through Lewis' blue musings.
SHIRLEY HORN TRIO -- "The Garden of the Blues" (SteepleChase SCS1203); appearing Friday and Saturday at Fort Dupont Park along with Joe Williams.