Jazz Pianist and Vocalist Horn Dead at 71

Shirley Horn (search), the jazz pianist and vocalist who got her start opening for Miles Davis (search) and became revered as a master interpreter of American standards, has died. She was 71.

Horn died Thursday night in her native Washington, D.C., after a long illness, according to a statement released Friday by her record label Verve Records.

Horn was often compared to Sarah Vaughan (search), Ella Fitzgerald (search) and Carmen McRae (search), and was considered one of the last great jazz vocalists of her era.

She started playing piano when she was a child. By the time she was a college student at Howard University, she had put together her first jazz trio.

Her talent drew the attention of music legend Quincy Jones (search), who would produce her first albums, as well as Miles Davis, who asked her to open for him at the renowned Village Vanguard at 1960.

However, after producing two albums for Mercury Records, she had creative difference with the label and left. At the same time, she had a daughter and decided to scale back on her performances and recordings.

Horn's career entered a renaissance when she signed with Verve Records in 1986. She went on to release several acclaimed albums and was featured at major jazz festivals and venues around the globe.

In her later years, she performed with artists ranging from Davis, who reunited with her for a rare appearance as a sideman on her 1991 album "You Won't Forget Me," to Wynton Marsalis (search).

She was nominated for multiple Grammys and won the award in 1991 for best jazz vocal performance. Last year, Horn was honored by National Endowment for the Arts as a jazz master.