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Jazz diva Shirley Horn dies at 71

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WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (AFP) - Legendary singer and pianist Shirley Horn, known for her deliberately slow renditions of jazz standards, has died at 71 in the Washington area, a member of her entourage said Friday.

Horn died Thursday at 10:30 pm, according to Warren Shadd, a member of her family and former drummer in her band.

Horn had used a wheelchair for several years after the amputation of a foot because of diabetes. She also had breast cancer.

"I speak like I sing. I've always been a little slow, my friends laugh at that," Horn said in an interview with the US National Public Radio in September 2002.

"I don't much hurry because I do believe in time and space. I think I can paint that picture for you slowly so you can see."

She adopted the same patient attitude toward her career, forsaking the limelight to raise her daughter in the 1970s and 1980s, while occasionally performing closer to home.

"My mother was always home with a hot meal for me. I decided, let me slow up and do this. I would leave for some concerts, but never long stints," she said.

Born May 1, 1934, Horn grew up in Washington in a middle-class family and never moved out of the city.

Trained as a classical pianist, she studied music at Howard University and turned to jazz as a teenager, performing in Washington clubs.

Horn was discovered in 1960 by producer Quincy Jones and legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, who were impressed by her first recording on a small, independent label. Davis invited her to perform with him at the famed Village Vanguard jazz club in New York City.

The owner of the club objected to having an unknown singer on stage, but Davis, who usually dismissed most vocalists, persisted.

"I went to open for Miles, I played 20 minutes because the guy didn't want me there in the first place," she said.

"Miles had to insist. He said: 'Either she does it or I don't,'" said Horn, who then made several recordings.

Davis recognized her singing style as similar to his own playing, using the silence between sounds to forge a dramatic effect.

Horn had her second breakthrough late in life, when she started recording for the Verve label in 1987 with the bassist and drummer with whom she had performed for years.

Speaking of her bassist, Charles Ables, and her drummer, Steve Williams, she said they hit a groove. "We kind of melted together musically."

"We moved as one. Sometimes it was like the best sex ever," she once told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Her most popular album, "You Won't Forget Me," featured a cameo by Miles Davis shortly before he died. Her tribute album to him, "I Remember Miles", won a Grammy award. A a live recording in 1992 of a performance in Paris, "I Love You Paris," received wide acclaim.

In 1990, she was awarded the Prix Billie Holiday by France's Academie du Jazz.

Music, she said in an interview with NPR, is "food and water to me."

"It's when I feel more like me. That's what I remember first when I was a little girl, I remember being at that piano in my grandmother's parlor.

"It's not work to me, it's how I feel normal."



COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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