Winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition and the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, American artist Jazzmeia Horn released her first album this year, entitled A Social Call, which features R&B from the 1960s and ’70s, black spirituals and, of course, jazz standards. Acclaimed for her inventive, scat-influenced style, Horn is both soulful and socially aware.
In our exclusive interview with the 26 year-old singer, she talks about her inspirations, her new album, and her artistic purpose.
Your name seems the perfect moniker for a singer. Are your parents musicians or jazz fans?
My grandmother gave me that name. She was a fan of jazz although she played in the church and did not play or sing jazz herself.
One of my favourite recordings is 1954’s Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown, which was a gift from my father. Is there one album that inspired you more than all others?
There are so many albums that inspired me, I can’t say that I have one favourite. Some of favourite albums are: The Audience with Betty Carter, Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, Be by Common, Individuality (Can I Be Me?) by Rachelle Ferrell and Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder.
How did you feel when you won the Thelonious Monk competition?
I was very excited because I was surprised. There were so many really wonderful singers who performed.
What do you like most about performing?
When the audience is great, I enjoy really good feedback. I really like it if the audience is active.
Please describe the sounds on your new album, A Social Call.
Beautifully arranged standards and new takes on familiar songs where I was able to stretch out and add some vocalization to represent various emotions.
Nina Simone once wrote, “How can you take the memory of a man like Medgar Evers and reduce all that he was to three and a half minutes and a simple tune?" Yet she continued to pen songs addressed to social justice. In your opinion, should politics and music mix?
Absolutely. I think people should have the right to say whatever they want. Politics is part of life and we should express ourselves through the music. How would we know what is going on in the world if we don’t use music to talk about it. When we are gone, music is the only thing that will be left.
What is the future of jazz? Do you think it will ever experience another golden era?
I am not sure of the future of jazz, but there have been many golden eras even if some of the eras have been less popular than others.
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