Her legend includes being Miles Davis' favorite singer, worthy praise from a master musician who didn't offer such things lightly. Shirley Horn had an exquisite voice...a dusty, warm sound of her own, with plenty of swing and soul. Her style utilized the space that Davis sought in much of his own music. Horn was one of those rare musicians who was both master of her internal instrument, her voice, and master of her external instrument, the piano.
Her piano sensibility for jazz grew on top of her foundation in classical music. At one point in her early life, she was accepted to The Julliard School of Music, but her mother put the brakes on her daughter going off alone to New York City. Her ears turned to jazz and she said, "Oscar Peterson became my Rachmaninov, and Ahmad Jamal became my Debussy." She would record her first jazz album in 1960, "Embers And Ashes" for a small label in New York City. That was the album that caught the attention of Miles Davis. His invitation to play between sets during his stints at the famed Village Vanguard raised her profile significantly and she was signed by Quincy Jones to Mercury Records in 1962.
Shirley Horn would go on to record 25 albums as a leader, including collaborations with Miles Davis, earning nine Grammy Award nominations. In 1999, her tribute album to her friend Davis earned her the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. In 2005, months before her death, she was honored by the National Endowment for The Arts as an NEA Jazz Master.