JAZZ IS HER NAME AND HER GAME.
There’s a new jazz vocal star on the national horizon. Here name is Jazzmeia Horn, “Jazz” for short. She’s the twenty-something-year-old, petite singer from Dallas, Texas. She has resided in New York City for the past several years and has taken the Big Apple and the entire jazz world by storm with her youthful mastery of the old art of “scat” singing and improvisation. Her phrasing reminds many listeners of the great Betty Carter, but she makes great use of her R&B and gospel influences as well.
Jazzmeia is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in her native Dallas, and The New School in New York. At Booker T. she was in a couple of my classes and showed an affinity for jazz singing, especially the style known as “scat,” which requires a singer to improvise nonsense words and phrases that fit the chord changes of the song. I was surprised that she could scat as well as she did without the advantage of playing a musical instrument. I thought of this ability as a gift which very few singers of any age possess. Because of this singular talent I knew that she was special. There were lots of students at school who could sing well, but not a one who could scat convincingly. Jazzmeia was the exception.
The New School offered her a scholarship for further study in music, which she gratefully accepted. One of her classes was taught by Billy Harper, a singer and world-class tenor saxophonist originally from Houston, Texas. He was the very first African American musician to play in the famous “One O’Clock Lab Band” at North Texas State Univerisity in Denton, Texas, a school which at the time was struggling with how to deal with the segregationist policies which were rampant in the South. It was, afterall the 1960's. Billy was, at the time, the most prolific jazz improviser on that campus, so his talent made a way for him. I told him to watch out for Jazzmeia because I felt that she had a very special talent.
While at the New School, Jazzmeia studied hard, worked on part-time jobs in the city, and made the rounds of “jam sessions.” I think her current success is the result of her work ethic as much as her talent. It appears that she did everything the right way in order to become the fledgling star that she is now. Jazzmeia’s debut recording, “A Social Call,” named for the composition of the same name by the great alto saxophonist, Gigi Gryce, has been a chart-topper for months and has earned her Grammy nominations. She has toured in support of the album in the United States and in other jazz-hungry countries. I predict that she will have much more success in her future. I certainly wish her well. Check her out her latest recording, "Love and Liberation" on the Concord label.
Student vocalists I taught at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts, members of the Rhythm & Blues Band
Musicians I taught at Booker T. Washington High School who were members of the Rhythm & Blues Band