Jazzmeia Horn’s “East of the Sun(And West of the Moon)” shines with vocal jazz strength

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Jazzmeia Horn is a young vocal jazz performer who brings a contemporary edge to classic jazz. “East of the Sun (And West of the Moon)” a single from her debut album, “A Social Call,” is a shining example of vocal range and strength.

An introduction to Jazzmeia Horn

Vocalist Jazzmeia Horn is new to me, so I couldn’t find if this is her real name or not. Either way, the name fits. Horn’s voice is soothing without lacking tension or excitement. Before her debut album was released this year, Horn was busy earning accolades in the world of jazz for the skill with which she applies her natural instrument to jazz.

At just 26, Horn’s resume is heavy with serious awards. Among them are Winner of the Thelonious Monk Institute and International Jazz Competition, 2015; Winner of the Sarah Vaughn International Jazz Vocal Competition, 2013, and the 2010 Downbeat Vocal Jazz Soloist Winner. Critical acclaim attended the awards.

Teddy

According to the singer’s website, Horn is influenced by Sarah Vaughn, and was educated at the New School in New York City, where she studied jazz.

While “A Social Call” is a debut album, it seems to avoid sounding like the work of a new artist. New to recording does not mean new to performing. The 1934 jazz standard, “East of the Sun (And West of the Moon)” works well to showcase Horn’s pliable and engaging voice.

“East of the Sun (And West of the Moon)” by Jazzmeia Horn

As recent albums have shown, it is possible to re-create the sound of early jazz records. But that isn’t what happens with Horn’s treatment. The song sounds new and bright. There is no mistaking what the song is about–romantic intimacy, only room for two, in the space indicated by the title.

Thus, more than 80 years later, the romance remains. Horn’s voice is warm throughout, whether she is walking a line between mezzo-soprano and alto, or soaring in a clear soprano flight, Horn’s voice never slips into a screechy quality. Her abilities keep the song genuine and light.

Maybe “light” is not the best word. This is serious jazz. Horn intersperses her version of “East of the Sun” with a Vaughn-esque scat. The warmth of her voice, the ease with which her range jumps from low to high, fast to slow, and back again, engages listeners. With so much going on vocally, it is easy to forget that there are backing musicians that are doing their part in keeping the song vibrant until its logical conclusion.

“East of the Sun (And West of the Moon)” opens with a slow and nuanced line from an upright bass. The sparse soundscape works to highlight Horn’s voice. Then, drums kick in, and they are subdued and brush the tempo gently.

Things change when the drums perform an off-kilter crash that seems to usher in Horn’s scat. Further, there is a piano solo that sparkles in the middle of the song, and audiences can imagine the classy partner dancing that could accompany the track.

The beginning of Horn’s scat is like a secret language. Audiences hang onto every syllable hoping to figure it out. As the scat continues, Horn lets the chorus rip, and now audiences understand, but they were going to keep listening anyway. Horn’s work here is a shining example of classic jazz made new, and a standout even in the current crop of releases by talented young performers.

 

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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