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JazzTimes Interview: Jazzmeia Horn

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Monday December 18, 2017

From JazzTimes

Jazzmeia Horn: Social Grace – Inspired by Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter, Rising Vocal Star Jazzmeia Horn Sings for Peace
By: Christopher Loudon

Could a singer who draws inspiration from legendary sax and trumpet players possibly be blessed with a better name than Jazzmeia Horn? The 26-year-old Dallas native, a graduate of Manhattan’s New School, is indeed blessed—not only with remarkable vocal skills but also sharp intelligence, an impressive sense of self and deep wells of creative curiosity. She is the first artist to win top honors at both the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Competition, where her prize included an album deal with Concord. The resultant debut disc, the standards-focused A Social Call, has earned her global accolades, drawing comparisons to the tsunamic impacts of Gregory Porter and Cécile McLorin Salvant – CHRISTOPHER LOUDON

JazzTimes : What was your path to jazz?

Jazzmeia Horn: I started singing in church when I was 3. My parents realized they needed to do something to sustain me musically, [and] my mother made sure I was in choir and musical theatre. We couldn’t afford voice lessons, so she made sure I was involved with anything going on musically. [At Dallas’ Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts], I had a teacher, Roger Boykin, who is still a mentor, and he said, “OK, your name is Jazzmeia; you should definitely get involved in jazz combos and jazz ensembles.” He had me sing “Summertime” and other classic jazz tunes. But it wasn’t until I heard Sarah Vaughan that everything clicked for me. Her phrasing, her scatting—everything made me feel like I could be more of myself, and brought parts of me out that I’d never experienced as a musician.

Later, Betty Carter proved an even bigger influence.

What really speaks to me is the fire she has, the way she presents the story to you. She’s like the blue flame: You don’t even know you’re burnt until it’s too late! And you don’t have any choice but to feel it. When I discovered Betty my whole life changed, and I was so grateful to have an understanding of who she was, what she stood for and what she gave to the music.

To read more of the interview, click here