Photo credit: Drew Bordeaux
Vocalist, songwriter, mother, teacher, Grammy nominee and NAACP Outstanding Image Award winner: Jazzmeia Horn is an artistic force. She revels in jazz’s diversity, moving from an intimate cover to virtuosic scatting on an original song with
ease. On April 1-2, her artistry lands in Cincinnati through Flow: An African American Experience, presented by ArtsWave.
Horn powerfully expresses her stylistic and cultural knowledge through her singing and songwriting. She’s emphatic about her artistic mission, saying, “This gift was given to me by the Most High. I have to set an example... What I want to do is to inspire everybody to be the best version of themselves that they can possibly be.” She takes the word “everybody” seriously and makes every effort to bridge divides across different generations or cultural backgrounds. She weaves her inspirations, personality and experiences together through her sound. To parents seeking music for young kids, retirees feeling nostalgic and young adults looking for new inspiration, she has the same message: “You can play some Jazzmeia Horn.”
Horn follows in the footsteps of Betty Carter, Charles Mingus and Nina Simone, from her straight-ahead sound to how she speaks truth to power. Her excitement bubbles up when she talks about the big band sounds on “Dear Love,” her newest record: “That swing just does something to me! It’s Mingus-sounding, with my own contemporary spin on things. I’m trying to make sure I’m talking about what’s happening in the world but also sharing love in that.”
Beyond her music, Horn shares her passion and knowledge through projects like her book on jazz vocal technique, “Strive from Within: The Jazzmeia Horn Approach,” and her online school, the Jazz Horn International Vocal Initiative. Those projects provide an opportunity to share musical knowledge you can’t get from university instruction alone. She notes, “There’s a lot of things I learned out in the street and at jam sessions.”
Horn’s idol, Betty Carter, founded the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program because she recognized that same need for jazz programs outside of the university model. An alumna of the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program herself, Horn envisions expanding her own online institute to a yearly summer program for young people.
Horn’s energy sustains her work as a critically acclaimed performer, dedicated mother and habitual challenger of expectations. Growing up, she made a habit of defying her brothers’ expectations. If they told her she couldn’t do something, she’d say, “Watch me,” then prove she could. “A negative seed is still a seed. So, make sure it’s consistent positivity,” she says.
Jazzmeia Horn is already working on her fourth album. She’ll share material from it with Cincinnati audiences in April. Her artistry is exciting, and her mission is expansive. She is a potent reminder that jazz is still as fresh and relevant as ever. Get tickets to her April 1-2 performances at artswave.org/jazz.