Shirley Horn – You’re My Thrill

You’re My Thrill
Shirley Horn
(Verve – 2001)
by John Barrett

It all seems to come without effort. While the brushes drift slowly, Shirley Horn meditates – the words almost fall from her mouth. Husky and soft is her voice, and nearly emotionless; she says “How my pulse increases” while slowing the pace. The first minute of “You’re My Thrill” is exquisite stillness, just her and the trio – and an orchestra sneaks in,whispering a chord. Shirley trills like the flutes behind her, then moans “I’ve lost my will”, next to a bass clarinet. She doesn’t blast you with bombast; she drapes you with atmosphere. In these jeweled surroundings, it works like a charm.

“Solitary Moon” is announced by a harp, and wistful strings follow. Shirley is stronger this time, and her words have a warm vibrato. The trumpet is special: Carl Saunders, calling gently to the placid air. Her piano is the spark for “Sharing the night with the Blues”: the chords strike hard as the lyric cuts deep. There’s a nice rhythm guitar by Russell Malone, and I wish his solo was longer. Her keys are warm for “I Got Lost in His Arms”, a polished sort of delicacy. She emotes a little, and the arrangement really gives it life. There’s a moment of harp, a vibraphone you barely hear; the string part is simple, and simply golden. (The charts are by Johnny Mandel, and by themselves are worth the purchase price.) “My Heart stood Still” begins with its unfamiliar verse; it unfolds very slowly, Shirley hanging on every word. When the brushes start churning,the romance grows; the singer helps with her strongest reading. Proof of this comes at the end, where she leaps an octave; she holds the note 15 seconds, and the cymbals rise to embrace her. Such quiet beauty is a rare thing.

Shirley’s approach is always consistent: find a good song and let it speak softly. (It doesn’t work for “The Best Is Yet to Come” – that lyric was made to swagger.) ‘You’d Better Love Me” hasher best piano, a percussive lick with hints of “Misterioso”. She’s friendly on “The Very Thought of You”,and the voice shines from a rainy background. (Here the strings are too much; the trio should have gone it alone.) Malone twangs it up saucy for”Why Don’t You Do Right?” and a sneaky bass propels “All Night Long”, with Shirley’s voice at its darkest. She despairs with woodwinds chirping around her, and the strings come weeping – everything works, and the mood is indelible. If you like standards done in a non-standard way, this disc is a thrill.