Jazzmeia Horn

A Social Call

Jazzmeia Horn, 26, harbors both astounding technique and an acute artistic vision, traits that helped propel her to victory in the 2015 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition. With her stunning debut album, A Social Call, it’s easy to see why the esteemed panel of Monk Competition judges—which that year included Patti Austin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Freddy Cole, Al Jarreau and Luciana Souza—were so impressed by this Texas native. Horn has a thrilling presence, with a musical sensibility that strikes a deft balance between mid-century jazz and contemporary neo-soul. Using those styles as reference points, Horn draws from sources that range from the Great American Songbook (“I Remember You,” “East Of The Sun”) to the spiritual canon (“Wade In The Water”) to modern r&b (a swinging take on Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Goin’ Down”). But whatever the genre, Horn’s voice remains consistently fresh and engaging—scatting horn-like on Betty Carter’s gem “Tight” and whispering fragile refrains on Jimmy Rowles’ lovely “The Peacocks.” Thematically, the album’s 10 tracks point toward matters of social awakening, recalling, in outlook and approach, the politically conscious albums of Nina Simone and Gil Scott-Heron. The spoken-word intro to “People Make The World Go Round” is a direct reproach against systems of oppression, but one of the most pointed social insights comes from the juxtaposition of two songs—the spiritual “Lift Every Voice And Sing” and the Bobby Timmons tune “Moanin’”— in which the overtones of freedom fade into the minor-keyed thrum of struggle. But this is not a gloomy album. Rather, an undeniable sense of optimism pervades, conveying the feeling that, through music, all divisions can be healed. That’s nowhere more evident than on “Social Call,” the Gigi Gryce tune that is the title track. The lyrics describe the hopeful reunion of two lovers, but a metaphor can easily be extended to the factions of our divided country. As Horn makes clear, harmony can only come through outreach: “Maybe we’ll get back together/ Starting with this incidental, elemental/ Simple social call.”

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August 2024
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