Shirley Horn was a native and lifelong resident of Washington, DC. Classically trained on the piano at a young age, and a graduate of Howard University’s classical music program, Horn succumbed to the siren call of the U Street jazz scene and formed her first trio in the early 1950s.
A gifted singer, Horn remained committed to small combos and intimate piano-led jazz arrangements, in the face of industry efforts to re-invent her as a pop vocalist fronting big bands.
By the early 1960s, Horn’s recordings attracted the admiration of Miles Davis—giving her profile a boost, especially since Davis was generally reserved in praising musicians other than himself—and Quincy Jones. Even so, by the mid-60s Horn had settled into domestic life, raising a family and giving local performances.
She returned to recording and touring in the late 1970s, and went on to release nearly 20 more LPs between then and her passing in 2005. She won a Grammy award in 1998 for “I Remember Miles”, one of her nine career Grammy nominations. In 2005 Horn received an NEA Jazz Masters Award, the US’ highest official honor for jazz musicians.