November 30, 1981 12:00 PM

Lena Horne

You lose a little but gain more from the fact that this double album was recorded live during Horne’s current smash one-woman show on Broadway. The sound, as she interacts with the audience, is uneven. But that interaction, in this crooning, wailing, shouting trip through Lena’s life in music, is what makes the nearly two hours electric instead of merely a star trip. Horne, at 64, has a warmer, better voice than ever, and Manhattan audiences dig every note, every inflection, even express delight at clever arrangements. There are plenty of those, by 14 arrangers, in 27 numbers. Horne sweeps from Cotton Club to preintegration Hollywood to the roof-raising closer, her showstopper If You Believe from the movie The Wiz. She introduces the eras with good-humored monologues, tinged at times with irony, as when she tells how her buddy Ava Gardner, not she, got the part of the black Julie in the movie Show Boat. Along the way, abetted by a brilliant big band conducted by keyboardist Linda Twine, Horne interprets some standards so definitively as to make all would-be future performers of same quake. She breathes, belts and bends Rodgers and Hart’s Bewitched, for instance, and her 1940s version of Stormy Weather, predictably, brings down the house in the first half of the show. Then she does it again, in the Horne style of four decades later, as her next-to-closer—and tops herself. Whoever coined the phrase “class act” could have had this show in mind.

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