Shirley Horn: Here's to LifeVerve/ Universal Music; Rs. 445 (CD)

You might remember my profile of Shirley Horn written on her death a little over a year ago. I talked of the whispery, breathy voice and meaningful pauses Horn brought to her unique rendition of ballads, and I mentioned particularly the title song of her 1991 album Here's to Life.I knew the song only from a compilation album called "Verve's Grammy Winners." So I could say I struck gold when I chanced upon the original album recently.Horn is in full flow here, and not just on the opening (and title) track. The most astonishing thing about this album is the fact that although Horn, on vocals and piano, is accompanied by a large string orchestra besides the usual small jazz group of bass, drums and occasional trumpet or flute, the strings are unusually muted. That allows the jazz buff to pay attention to Horn's virtuosity as a singer and pianist, in both of which capacities she performs admirably.All the pieces here are ballads. Horn refrains from making a foray into faster-paced and lighter numbers, sometimes with a sardonic mood; when she did, we heard a facet of her music that added versatility to her emotional depth. Here her piano solos, as well as guest star Wynton Marsalis' trumpet solos on two numbers and James Walker's and Stephen Kujala's flute solos on a couple of other tracks, help to keep the flag of jazz flying across the album. But the two best numbers, the title track and "Summer (Estate)," despite having no solo improvisation, easily establish themselves as the pick of the album. Diana Krall: From This Moment on Verve/Universal; Rs. 395 (CD)It isn't often that a jazz CD becomes available in India within a few months of its first appearance anywhere in the world, but here's one. Perhaps the fact that it's been nominated for a Grammy in the jazz vocal album category has something to do it. Diana Krall is a singer-pianist in the mould of Shirley Horn but with not such a strong leaning to emotion-charged ballads. The title track of this album, in fact, is a fast-paced number, fairly light-hearted despite being a love song, and Krall renders it breezily. Two trumpet solos, by Gil Castellanos and Terell Stafford, precede a passage in which Krall demonstrates her facility with "scat'' improvisation. On "Day in, Day out," also fast-paced, Krall adds a piano solo to scat improvisation to demonstrate her facility with the keys. Half the tracks, including this one, have a large orchestra supporting Krall. "Exactly Like You," also with a quick tempo, is one of the tracks that don't have the large orchestra accompaniment. It has good solos by Krall on piano and Anthony Wilson on guitar.All in all, this is an album that will enhance Krall's reputation as a jazz singer, whether or not it eventually wins her a Grammy.JAZZEBEL

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