Washington, DC–born vocalist and pianist Shirley Horn was one of the most singular and respected musicians on the jazz scene during a career that spanned more than five decades. Despite minimal accolades, Horn’s contributions to the art form are rarely rivaled. She was a virtuoso pianist and a genius song stylist. In a 1992 article in the Washington Post, prolific composer and arranger Johnny Mandel explained that “Horn’s playing wasn't just self-accompaniment. It was percussive counterpart and harmonic commentary that worked with the singing to create a whole, a work of art that was more than the sum of its parts. ‘It's almost as if when Shirley plays, she has two brains. I don't know how she can play what she plays and sing what she sings.…Playing piano like that is a very complex undertaking, and singing with that amount of sensitivity and concentration—she sounds like Siamese twins.’”1 Through recorded performances that best exhibit vocal phrasing, chord voicings, and comping patterns in the jazz tradition, Horn’s piano and vocal performance will be analyzed in order to demonstrate why her genius should occupy the top echelons of revered American musicians this country has ever produced. Jazz and classical musicians whom Horn cited as her biggest influences will be discussed to demonstrate how she absorbed and expertly integrated chosen elements of those individual styles into her own performance to create a distinctive sound and a unique approach to interpreting standard jazz repertoire. Through biographical information, Horn’s career will be examined through a lens of intersectionality to discover how social categorizations such as race, class, and gender might have played a part in informing her musical and professional choices.

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