JUNE 26, 2019

Reviewed by Dee Dee McNeil/jazz journalist

Jazzmeia Horn, vocals/composer; Victor Gould,piano & SPECIAL GUEST: Sullivan Fortner, piano; Ben Williams, bass; Jamison Ross, drums/vocals; Stacey Dillard, tenor saxophone; Josh Evans, trumpeter; Chris Dunn, producer.

Jazzmeia Horn has returned to the jazz scene with a dozen songs full of energy, substance, rooted in cultural consciousness and nurtured by her dynamic vocals. As a composer, she has written seven of the twelve songs she’s recorded. Beginning with “Free Your Mind,” I am reminded of 1960 jazz messages of peace and freedom; of Betty Carter and Coltrane; of Lambert, Hendrix and Ross. Those mentioned are all icons and I expect this vocalist will take her place in the sunshine of success as well. Here is a talent to watch and enjoy.

The second cut, “Time” is a short poem, followed by the speedy, bebop tune titled, “Out the Window.” It showcases Jazzmeia’s comfort level with scatting, while showcasing her perfect enunciation and ability to swing as hard as Sarah Vaughan or Mel Tormé. “No More” is a song deeply rooted in the blues, written by Hubert Laws and Jon Hendricks, and proclaiming Horn’s female power and independence. Sullivan Fortner is delightful on piano, putting the ‘B’ in blues and Jazzmeia Horn shows how powerful she is with a full ensemble, or in this case, only a trio. The fade adds gospel background vocals chanting the theme, “No More.” “When I Say” is, once more, a declaration of power and female liberation. It’s a lyric full of ultimatums and declarations, reminding me at times of a Marlena -Shaw-tone when in her heyday she sang, “Let the doorknob hit cha where the dog should of bit cha”.

The lovely ballad, “Legs and Arms” lyrically seems to be written for a man to sing about some crush he has on a brunette beauty. The bridge challenges Horn’s competent vocal range and is very melodic and ear-pleasing. This song features a sensual tenor saxophone solo by Stacey Dillard. At her live, overseas performance, at the Jazz Ahead Trade Fair, Jazzmeia Horn explained what inspired her to write this song. It was a peeping Tom she busted while attending college. She caught him staring (with binoculars), into her window. He was there when she awoke to take a shower each morning. She explained how we can often find something good to come out of a negative experience. So, she composed this song about that very moment and what he may have been thinking.

Criss-crossing from straight-ahead and bebop into the realms of Hip-Hop, she refreshes the Erykah Badu tune, “Green Eyes” with a band that clearly understands and embraces her desire to explore all music through the prism of jazz arrangements. Jazzmeia Horn evokes kaleidoscope colors with her music; a colorful mixture of historic jazz and current genres. She is fearless, covering “Reflections of my Heart,” written by the late icon, George Duke and the great vocalist, Rachelle Ferrell. This is recorded as a duet with her awesome drummer and singer, Jamison Ross. Ross has a stunningly emotional voice that blends perfectly with Horn’s purity of soulful sound. To close this album, Ben Williams struts his stuff on double bass during the standard song, “I Thought About You.” Jazzmeia Horn and Williams are a formidable duo.

According to the liner notes, it was Horn’s jazz-loving, piano-playing grandmother who suggested christening the child with the splendid name of “Jazzmeia.” Born in Dallas, Texas, the little girl with the jazzy name grew up surrounded by the love and musicality of her family. As a toddler, she was already singing her songs and exhibiting her fascination with music. Jazzmeia Horn attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, known for launching the careers of great musicians including Roy Hargrove, Norah Jones and Erykah Badu. Later, her education included mentoring by jazz masters like Betty Carter, Bobby McFerrin and Abbey Lincoln. When she relocated to New York City in 2009, in constant search of perfecting her craft, the youthful vocalist enrolled in The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music Program. She studied and blossomed. After four-years, people started noticing her talent and ability. In 2013, she entered and won a Newark-based contest named for the sassy Ms. Sarah Vaughan, an international jazz competition. I hear a lot of Sarah’s influence in Jazzmeia’s presentation. In 2015, Horn won the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition. Part of her prize was a contract with Concord which led to her former debut release, “A Social Call.”

“Honestly, I’m way more excited now about ‘Love and Liberation,’ because this is mostly my original music. Don’t get me wrong. I love ‘A Social Call’ and all the acclamations were great … the reviews in Downbeat, The New York Times and London Times. But now, I’m like, you guys don’t really know what’s coming. Boy, do I have something in store for you,” Jazzmeia Horn warns.

If this current album of amazing music and creativity is an example of her warning, I say, bring it on!
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