Dear Love by Jazzmeia Horn and Her Noble Force

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.

Lover, Come Back To Me – Jazzmeia “Jazz” Horn

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Alfa Mist’s “Bring Backs” Blends Jazz with Spoken Word

With his third studio album, the British producer, songwriter, and self-thought pianist Alfa Mist reflects upon his sampling and hip-hop days on the streets of London. After self-releasing his two previous albums – Antiphon and Structuralism – Alfa Mist partners with the American independent record label Anti- for his next body of work, Brings Back.

Alfa Mist is a London-based producer, rapper, and pianist. To be both a hip-hop rapper and a jazz pianist is unique on its own. Learning that both skills are self-thought makes him inspiring. Alfa Mist started to create music on the streets of East London when he was only 15 years old. Being a teenage hip-hop producer eventually led to the discovery of jazz music. ”There’s no access to jazz where I’m from,” Alfa says. “There’s no way I would have come to it without finding those hip-hop records and wanting to understand them.” Learning the piano enabled him to improvise and creatively fuse jazz with hip-hop. By 2015, he built his network and established himself as a leading figure within the vibrant and rapidly evolving London jazz scene.

Change is inevitable
The isms and schisms, questionable
The future is out there, a matter of time

Hilary Thomas

Alfa Mist’s first official release was the collaboration project with singer Emmavie titled Epoch. This independent release from 2014 is strongly influenced by avant-garde R&B and, it already blends jazz, soul, and hip-hop. His first solo release came in 2015 with the extended play Nocturne and, two years later, he released his breakthrough album titled Antiphon. In 2017, he followed up with his second full-length album, Structuralism. Bring Backs is the third in a series of recognized and welcomed Alfa Mist albums. The album captures Alfa Mist’s rap and piano skills. It blends contemporary jazz with R&B, soul, hip-hop, classical, and spoken word.

The reflective musical voyage alters between an instrumental atmosphere and vocals in the form of rap and spoken word. The lyrics, a poem by Hilary Thomas, is what binds the album together. A total of four vocalists support the album. On the opening track, “Teki,” we hear Hilary Thomas open her poem with a spoken-word piece: “Change is inevitable. The isms and schisms, questionable. The future is out there, a matter of time.” In the song “People,” Kaya Thomas-Dyke sings in what is more a guitar-driven ballad. Alfa Mist is the third vocalist we hear, and he does it the way we expect. “Mind the Gap” dives into hip-hop and rap but keeps the loungy jazz backing. Alfa Mist’s rap gets support from the rapper Lex Amor who brings a softer touch to the track.

Alfa Mist in the studio during the Bring Backs recordings

Bring Backs got recorded in London together with an ensemble consisting of close friends and longtime collaborators, which makes things more personal. For the album’s title, Alfa Mist drew inspiration from a card game he played as a child. In the game, after winning a round, you can be brought back to play again, meaning that winning is never a sure thing. With it, Alfa Mist refers to his childhood. He lived in a constant state of uncertainty and instability. “You can be doing okay for a while but, that can change. You know that’s always a possibility,” he explains. The unpredictable and inevitable future is a recurring theme on the album.

The album is a confirmation that Alfa Mist will have more to offer in the future. He shows his ability to blend various musical styles and instruments into one meaningful oeuvre. Being a leading figure in the London music scene definitely influenced the album’s creativity.

Alfa Mist – Bring Backs (Live at Metropolis)

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