Jazzmeia Horn Serenades Spoleto Fans

Jazzmeia Horn and band performing for Spoleto Festival USA 2018 at the Charleston Gaillard Center. Photo: Mikah November

By Hakim Abdul-Ali

It’s said that there’s something new happening everyday. In the musical arenas, especially in the field of jazz, that’s a very-on-point observation. Laying her claim to the current evolvement of that assertion is a gifted young vocalist named Jazzmeia Horn.

Blessed with an awe-inspiring and catchy first name, this talented young lady, 27, has set the jazz world ablaze with her stirring singing style and provocative repertoire. The New York Times has described her as the most talked-about jazz vocalist to emerge since Cécile McLorin Salvant.

Ms. Horn came to the Lowcountry as a featured performer for the 2018 Spoleto Festival USA’ Wells Fargo Jazz Series. She brought her instinctive sound and charismatic essence to the Charleston Gaillard Center for a one show only performance featuring a scintillating eight tune presentation on Monday evening, May 28, 2018.

The show was a bona fide winner, and it had the near capacity filled audience delightfully mesmerized by the young star’s vocal abilities. From the beginning of her set to the very last song, she was pure energy, obviously enjoying herself as much as the audience marveled at her impressive vocal ranges.

On this evening she was accompanied by Victor Gould (piano), Marcus Miller (saxophone), Corey Wallace (trombone), Josh Evans (trumpet), Barry Stephenson (bass) and Henry Conerway lll (drums). Together, they are a very harmonious aggregate of seriously skilled and highly trained young musicians.

They started the evening with a Betty Carter-influenced piece called “Tight”, then came an audience pleaser, “East of the Sun (West of the Moon). These first two tunes, along with the third tune in the set, “Up Above My Head”, let everyone know that this young lady was getting ready to unwind and celebrate the evening, including offering some very candid socially conscious raps and political messages and even more thought-provoking vocals with her expressive, energized melodies.

Jazzmeia Horn is unique in that she’s a vocalist who appears to scat at the drop of a note when she sings, and is distinctive in how she interprets her material, harkening back memories of Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. This was very evident in how she sang the tunes “People Make the World Go Round” and “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was”, songs that were intense and very spontaneous, but yet ever so reflective.

I particularly enjoyed her stimulating piece, “The Peacocks (A Timeless Place)”, a mood enhancer if there ever was one to hear and contemplate about. The septet closed the evening with another expansive, mind challenging tune called “Moanin”, which brought a standing ovation from the audience.

The entire evening was an affair to be in attendance at if you desired to see where the new wave of jazz focalizations are headed. With the excellent backing and expert collaboration from her steady band members, especially drummer Henry Conerway lll, saxophonist Marcus Miller, pianist Victor Gould and Barry Stephenson on bass, the future of Jazzmeia Horn’s signature and converging role on the new jazz scene is secured and definitely on the rise.

I must salute the other members of her musical entourage, namely trombonist Corey Wallace and trumpeter Josh Evans, a bad dude, because they play with supportive, cohesive and emotive stimulations that boost Jazzmeia’s vocal essence even higher that it usually is, if you can image that. But, in any scenario, make no mistake about who this lady is because with more and more experience under belt, the sky’s the limit for and her band mates. I can feel it.

She’s a unique songstress who hails from Dallas, Texas, and she graduated from college in New York City, earning a bachelors degree in jazz and contemporary music. Her honors thus far also include being named the winner in the 2015 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition and her performance at Spoleto was the perfect showcase for proving that her singing skills and honors are no joke.

I might add that she has performed with numerous jazz greats and qualified musical talents in developing her skills as a vocalist. Added to those experiences is the fact that she’s won DownBeat magazine’s Student Music Award in 2008 and 2009, plus many other prestigious awards.

She’s also sharing her skills and knowledge with the youth who are seriously interested in jazz by serving as a teaching artist in NJPAC Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens Program. Oh, and there’s more: this super talent is also a 2018 Grammy Award nominee for her 2017 #1 jazz album,”A Social Call”.

This sister is very real and personable to approach and it’s almost equivalent to her musical stylings – they are both genuine. She’s a fresh face with a dynamic voice, who shows her essence in everything that she does and even in her appearance by proudly and gracefully wearing Afrikan cultural attire.

Jazzmeia Horn and her band serenaded the Spoleto Festival USA audience with quality definitive and cutting-edge music. That’s all that needs to be said because it was a great show.

L-R: Jeffrey “Uni” Nickelson of North Charleston poses with vocalist Jazzmeia Horn and her drummer Henry Conerway lll after the Jazzmeia Horn concert. Photo: Hakim Abdul-Ali

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