Positive Music: Jazzmeia Horn performs at The Jazz Standard

Winner of the 2015 Thelonius Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition and 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, Jazzmeia Horn has a name that speaks for itself capturing her very essence. Hailing from the great Dallas, Texas Jazzmeia has already earned a reputation in New York as a “Rising Star.” With the ambition to pursue a solo career, Jazzmeia graced the New York scene in 2009 and earned her degree at The New School for Jazz and contemporary Music . It wasn’t much later when she began to perform as a sideman with musicians
Winard Harper, Junior Mance, Billy Harper, Lincoln Center Alumni Vincent Gardner, Delfeayo Marsalis, Mike LeDonne, Peter Bernstein, Johnny O’Neal, Vincent Herring, Kirk Lightsey, Frank Wess, and Ellis Marsalis.

Jazzmeia then began to appear in world famous jazz festivals and legendary jazz clubs such as Lenox Lounge, Bill’s Place, The Apollo, The Blue Note, Dizzy’s Jazz Club Coca­Cola, Minton’s, The Jazz Standard, Smalls Jazz Club, Zinc, Jazz Gallery, Birdland, and The New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Her accolades include Downbeat Student Music Award Recipient 2008, 2009, and Best Vocal Jazz Soloist Winner 2010, The 2013 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program at The Kennedy
Center­Washington D.C., The Rising Star Award for the 2012 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Jazz Competition, Finalist for Mid­Atlantic Jazz Vocal Competition 2014, and The 2015 ­16th Annual Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium’s Young Lioness Award.

Currently, Jazzmeia is a teaching artist in The NJPAC Well’s Fargo­Jazz for Teens Program and Jazz In The Schools Program in Newark, New Jersey. She appears in various clubs on the jazz scene nationally and internationally leading her dynamic group “The Artistry of Jazz Horn” which includes­ pianist, bassist, drummer, saxophonist, poet, dancer and herself­ vocalist. Jazzmeia humbles her life and gift of music before God and says “I am thankful for the opportunity to play music professionally and have a deep desire to uplift the souls of others in need through my artistry in the spirit of music.”

The vocalist Jazzmeia Horn began her second set at The Jazz Standard on
Friday night with “Tight,” a quick-stepping jazz standard that was a signature
of Betty Carter’s repertoire. Ms. Carter is a big influence on Ms. Horn, who
delivered the tune with the same playful persuasion as her forebear.

After a run through the bobbing, stop-and-start melody, Ms. Horn traded improvisations
with the tenor saxophonist Marcus Miller. She pantomimed tapping keys on her microphone
as she scatted, light and sharp and sweet, with fluid harmonic movements that mimicked a
horn player’s. She outlined a chord, then shifted it up, then trailed it into the air.

It was a promising coming-out party for the most talked-about jazz vocalist to emerge since
Cécile McLorin Salvant and Gregory Porter both became stars about five years ago. Ms. Horn
does not have a conceptual calling card on the level of Ms. Salvant’s archival excursions
or Mr. Porter’s sage and nostalgic songwriting. But, like Mr. Porter, she uses a striking
command to project a mix of didacticism and sweetness.

And she’s possessed of some distinctive tools, all of which were on display: a pinched,
sassy tone in the highest register; a fondness for unguarded duets with her bassist; an array
of rough, pealing nonverbal sounds that add drama to codas and interludes, hinting at meanings
in the music that go beyond what fits on the page.

Ms. Horn, 26, from Dallas, released her debut album, “A Social Call.” She recorded
the disc with some of New York’s top young players after winning the 2015 Thelonious Monk
Institute International Jazz Competition, the highest accolade available to a rising jazz
musician. Each year’s winner receives a deal with Concord Records.

“A Social Call,” on Concord’s historic Prestige subsidiary, collects tunes that belong to what
you might call the straight-ahead jazz canon of today. That includes some of the more
inspirational R&B from the 1960s and ’70s, black spirituals and, of course, standards.
Her influences clearly include contemporary singers, from Cassandra Wilson to Erykah Badu,
as well as jazz’s midcentury staples.

The album’s name, which comes from the jazz standard by Gigi Gryce, is meant as a kind of
political double entendre. On Monday, standing onstage in a flowing dress of West African
fabrics and matching head wrap, she finished the up-tempo title tune with a neat cinch:
“Maybe we’ll get back together, starting from this sentimental, elemental, simple, social
call.” Then she introduced the next piece, the Stylistics’ “People Make the World Go Round,”
explaining that the nearly 50-year-old tune’s lyrics of social lament still feel relevant.
“As the old folks say, ain’t nothin’ changed,” she said.

She delivered a prepared monologue decrying the corruption of political leaders, the food
industry, inveterate racism and neglect of the poor. Then Ms. Horn and her six-piece band
piled into a writhing minor vamp. Trumpet, trombone and tenor saxophone made a squall of
crisscrossing cries — a bright sound that suggested rising flames, but was darker than blue
too. She sang the song with an extra dose of confrontation, a touch above what’s on the
record, sometimes deploying a wordless yowl.

The Jazz Standard is one of the more coveted rooms on New York’s jazz
circuit, and the night had the air of great anticipation. Ms. Horn stuck to songs from the album
(she also recited one original poem, “Time”) and never ventured far from the arrangements.

But there were subtle exceptions. On Bobby Timmons’s gospel-tinged “Moanin’,” the drummer
Henry Conerway III shook a syncopated New Orleansian tambourine pattern as the saxophone stated
the melody. When the solo section began he put down the instrument, and Ms. Horn picked it up,
slapping it gamely, more or less replicating Mr. Conerway’s pattern on the drums.

This felt unrehearsed, and her bandmates seemed as though they were adjusting to it. She was
pushing into their improvising space, rejecting demureness or stoicism. When the pianist Victor
Gould finished his solo, she nearly didn’t make it back to the microphone in time for her final chorus.

There was your moment of release, a break in the staging. Even inside these old songs, in this
buttressed style, there was room for some new attitude.

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