Ezra Weiss

The Shirley Horn Suite

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Shirley Horn's unique approach to accompanying her vocals on piano set her apart from others. One of her former bassists, Buster Williams, quipped "Shirley would hit a downbeat and you'd have time to go out for a sandwich and finish eating it before having to play the second beat." This tribute to Horn by pianist Ezra Weiss salutes her influential approach to ballads, utilizing singer Shirley Nanette, bassist Corcoran Holt, and Horn's former drummer, Steve Williams. Only four of the nine songs were performed by Horn, while the rest are originals by the leader (who also wrote the lyrics). The instrumental "The Great City" has a "Killer Joe"-like undercurrent in its introduction, with Weiss' dramatic, bluesy touch fitting the mold perfectly. Likewise, there is no vocal in his touching, bittersweet setting of "I Loves You, Porgy," which is beautifully reharmonized. Weiss' deliberate, melancholy treatment of "Estate" (a piece often played just a touch too fast) fits its unheard lyrics, Holt's bass is prominent in the mix, and Williams' whispering brushes provide the perfect backdrop to the leader's lyrical piano. Weiss' originals are thoughtful, with lyrics conveying Horn's influence on him, though Nanette doesn't fall into the trap of trying to clone her vocal approach. "I Wish I'd Met You" is a touching ballad that perfectly describes Horn's magical style. "Shirley Horn's Sound of Love" is a soft bossa nova with a haunting melody, sung beautifully by Nanette. The robust "Blues for Shirley" is a spacious affair, with lots of space for Holt's tasty solo. It's hard to ask more of a tribute than what Ezra Weiss has done in his well-conceived salute to the late, great Shirley Horn.

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