Jazzmeia Horn, a New Prodigy That Explores the African Roots of Jazz
Jazzmeia Horn is the great sensation of the American jazz scene. At 27 she has burst into the music market with the abruptness and irreverence of young talent, but with the wisdom of those who owe their musical conscience to legends of the magnitude of Sarah Vaughan, Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter or Cassandra Wilson.
With deep respect for Jazz classics, she has nonetheless managed to create her own musical identity, indebted to her African roots, which also links her with other contemporary artists, such as the neo-soul singer Erykah Badu.
Horn has been described as having an old school soul that evokes the classic Jazz sound of the 50s and 60, while blending more modern flavors, such as gospel and neo-soul. Legendary vocalist Jon Hendricks recently noted that “Jazzmeia has one of the best voices I’ve heard in forty years”.
JAZZMEIA HORN AND THE SOCIAL CALL
Jazzwise affirmed that it was “one of the most powerful debuts of recent times”. John Garelick stated in The Boston Globe that “she knows how to land on a syllable and make it count in a way that gives life to every word”.
In fact, no one can remember a more powerful breakout into the jazz scene in a long time. With only one record on the market, “A Social Call“, published in 2017, Horn has earned an endless list of positive praise and critiques.
The most prestigious Jazz publications have highlighted her extraordinary voice and her ability to generate new atmospheres in which a modern vision of the genre and a deep respect for the vocal tradition coexist. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Jazz Vocal Album.
“A Social Call”, a panoramic record in terms of eras, styles and range, was recorded two years after Horn won the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition, possibly the biggest award for emerging Jazz artists. The winners receive a recording contract with the historic Prestige label, a subsidiary of Concord Music Group.
JAZZMEIA PERFORMS CLASSIC AND MODERN JAZZ
The New York Times described Jazzmeia’s feature album as a journey through current jazz. That includes some of the most inspiring R & Bs of the 60s and 70s, black spirituals and, of course, standard songs. She is clearly influenced by contemporary singers that go from Cassandra Wilson to Erykah Badu, as well as leading artists of the mid-twentieth century.
The journalist of the prestigious Jazziz, Matt Micucci, assures that the young artist born in Dallas “has earned a reputation for her spirited performances full of storytelling, song and brilliant improvisation”.
According to All Guide Music, the Texas singer is “a virtuoso performer in command of a very powerful instrument with titanic vocal kills that combine with her depth of character and artistic purpose”.
The personality of the artist, which comes through in her songs and her statements, also shows an uncommon social commitment in a scene that feels quite comfortable with abstraction. This awareness has to do with her African roots, which are very present both in her music and in her own way of dressing.
HORN EXPLORES HER AFRICAN HERITAGE THROUGH JAZZ
In an interview with Fairfax Count Times, Jazzmeia Horn acknowledged that “I did not know much about African culture and anthropology because the books they gave me in high school did not have beautiful and positive data about Africans and the way they dressed.” This absence of referents during her childhood is what she has wanted to compensate for, in adulthood, through her art.
In the same interview she stated that all the songs of “A Social Call” have a double meaning. “They were all composed and recorded before I was born, but the reality behind the social injusticeS that existed before I was born became part of my reality the day I was born. Songs like “Tight” do not necessarily mean a man; it could mean holding on to a positive mental state”.
Born into a family with a long musical tradition, her mother was a gospel singer, her father a drummer and her grandmother a gospel pianist. Horn dreamed of being on stage since she was three years old, when she sang in the choir of her grandfather’s Baptist church in Dallas.
Coming from a musical background that included not only gospel, but also soul, pop and R & B, Horn attended the Booker T. Washington School for Performing and Visual Arts, “which is where I found and discovered Jazz, or where Jazz found and discovered me”, she pointed out a few weeks ago to The Boston Globe.
After listening to a compilation CD that a friend had gifted to her with a selection of classical vocalists, discovering Vaughn’s voice caused an earthquake in the soul of the then teenage artist. From that day on, she knew that Jazz was the path that she wanted to explore.
In 2017, she released her debut album “A Social Call,” which Downbeat Magazine described as a “skillful balance between mid-century Jazz and contemporary neo-soul”.
Horn received her first Grammy nomination the following year in the category of “Best vocal Jazz album”. At the award ceremony she received a standing ovation for putting her creative touch on Bobby Timmons’ “Moanin”.
The next step for Horn is the release of her second album this Summer, which already promises “not to be as political as the first one. Instead, I will talk about love and freedom”, she said.
All songs will be original compositions. It will also include more spoken word, a trait that she usually unveils on stage. “I am choosing the conscious realm to see you, Eye see you with my ‘third eye'”, she says.
She relates her poetry to black speech. “In the black community we have a tendency to say ‘I feel you’ a lot, because it honors a person more than to say ‘I see you’ or ‘I understand you’. We do not ‘understand’ people, no, ‘We do not stand under people, we are with them’. It’s similar, she says, to saying “Be happy.”