Making Her Voice Heard

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Monday March 25, 2019

From The Boston Globe

Jazzmeia Horn is just beginning to make her voice heard
By: Jon Garelick

From the first track of Jazzmeia Horn’s 2017 ‘A Social Call,’ it’s not difficult to see why she won the 2015 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition. On that cut – jazz vocal deity Betty Carter’s “Tight” – you can hear within a few bars that Horn’s voice has range and heft and a warm, grainy character. She tackles the intricacies of the uptempo rhythmic steeplechase with unruffled aplomb. She knows how to land on a syllable and make it count in a way that animates an entire lyric. And when her phrasing spins off from the lyrics into effusive scatting, with the occasional trill or yodel, it is, as Carter herself proclaimed about scatting, “not nonsense” – it’s the ineffable meaning beyond words.

Aside from prize-winning jazz technique (she also won the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition), Horn has a wide-ranging sensibility. On A Social Call, the Dallas-born singer assays R&B like Norman Whitfield’s “I’m Going Down” and the Stylistics’ “People Make the World Go Round.” She brings her early church-music experience to the gospel standard “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as well as the spiritual “Wade in the Water.” The former segues to the Bobby Timmons hard-bop standard “Moanin,’‘‰” while the latter is part of a medley, with Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue” (with lyrics by Oscar Brown Jr.) and Horn’s spoken-word “Eye See You.”

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