But Beautiful the Best of Shirley Horn is a greatest hits compilation without a single miss in it. Covering a career as long as the late Ms. Horn's can be a daunting task to say the least, but this recording does so with the same grace and elegance that Horn demonstrated when she played. Backed by the skillful Charles Ables on bass and Steve Williams on drums, But Beautiful is a soulful journey through an amazing jazz legacy.
The disc opens with a playful, swinging rendition of "I Just Found Out About Love" and then segues into the emotional "You Won't Forget Me" with the unmistakable trumpet backing of Miles Davis. Horn's barely contained sensuality is evident throughout these numbers and her unrestrained joy makes this a wonderful listening experience. Everything is done without being overstated. The theory that less is more is on display here to great effect.
"Fever" is a classic done simply, quietly and with such direct emotion that you find yourself drawn in and feel as if she is singing to you only. The same can be said for "Nice 'n' Easy," which Horn performs with heart and a sings in a voice that is so low that it is just above a whisper at times. You find yourself leaning in to hear her and can feel the warmth of her presence wash over you.
The main part of this disc ends with the poignant "Here's to Life" with the telling lines of "No regrets, no complaints. I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets. All you give is all you get, so give all you have to give." Shirley Horn left us way to soon and this song in light of that can stop you in your steps. It is a brilliant summing up of a life well lived and a legacy that will long out last her. She certainly lived her motto and gave all she had to give to her audience.
But Beautiful has four bonus tracks that were recorded at the Au Bar in New York City in January 2005 when Horn played along with her trio consisting of Roy Hargrove on trumpet, Ed Howard on bass and Steve Williams on drums. The selections here are "Jelly, Jelly," the amusing and light "Loads of Love," which Horn so enjoys performing that you smile and nod along with her. The tracks conclude with " I Didn't Know What Time It Was." The playing on all of these is tight. It is the kind of playing that only comes from years of playing together gives you.
But Beautiful the Best of Shirley Horn,gives the long time fan a way of remembering a true legend in jazz and gives the new listener a wonderful introduction to a school of jazz that is slowly fading away. Shirley Horn had an unmistakable style and quality that will be missed and cannot ever be replaced, but in this recording we have her at her best and what more could anyone ask.