There is nothing more appealing to me than a jazz album infused with poetry and spoken word. And this is exactly what Jazzmeia Horn offers us. Dear Love is the third and most ambitious album by the American vocalist and arranger. Not only is it another demonstration of Jazzmeia “Jazz” Horn’s singing ability, but the album also spotlights her as a composer, arranger, and bandleader.
Jazzmeia Horn is an American jazz musician who came into prominence when she won the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Vocals Competition in 2015. In 2017, she released her debut studio album titled A Social Call, and two years later, she released her follow-up album Love & Liberation. Both albums got nominated for Grammy Awards in the category Best Jazz Vocal Album. Her third body of work, Dear Love, is different and more progressive as the album is supported by a large ensemble of musicians who she calls Her Noble Force. All songs for this orchestral project are arranged by Jazzmeia Horn and, the album got released on her own label, Empress Legacy Records. The work has been Grammy-nominated for Best Large Jazz Ensemble.
In the album’s opening track “I Feel You Near,” she performs calming spoking-word over the baritone sax and percussion. She articulates every word coherently and, she uses intonation to built-up the tension. The song is poetic, but the instrumental backing brings motion. It hints towards traditional African folk music, where movement is a central theme. It is the perfect opening for an album that addresses personal aspects of life and where the contrast and variety of the compositions bring up different themes and moods.
“Ella could not only sing a melody, she could scat the hell out of some chord changes and sound just like an instrumentalist. I like to say that I am continuing the legacy, or the tradition, of vocal improvisation.”Jazzmeia Horn
Despite being backed by a large jazz ensemble, Jazzmeia Horn managed to keep the album intimate and personal. Her vocals are meaningful and gentle. She has a consistent timbre, a wide range, and outstanding timing. In the song “Lover, Come Back To Me” – a well-known jazz standard thanks to Billie Holiday’s recording – her scat singing abilities can be compared to the legendary Ella Fitzgerald. Also, Horn’s improvisational skills are similar to the trademark of one of the most important jazz singers of all time. “I like to say that I am continuing the legacy, or the tradition, of vocal improvisation,” Horn says during an interview with NPR.
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