Jazzmeia Horn ‘A Social Call’ CD (Prestige) 4/5

Major new female do not come along all that often, but one thing seems certain; Jazzmeia Horn is destined for a glittering career if this debut recording is anything to go by. Interestingly, her voice is a composite of various singers, but still comes out sounding very much her own. There is unquestionably a strong nod to Betty Carter whom she most resembles, but then there are equally shades of Erykah Badu and, in the scats at the very least, Al Jarreau, which comes as an extremely pleasant surprise, while Dee Dee Bridgewater, Carmen Lundy and Sarah Vaughan all emerge in the mix at various points.

The judicious selection of jazz standards allied with more unusual and quirky choices hints at a jazz singer who knows both how to best extract music that suits her and adds an individual touch to her interpretations. Interestingly, the standards are generally relatively short, yet Horn compensates by attempting medleys of two and three songs and these can last as long as thirteen minutes in one case. The lesser known Myron Butler composition, ‘Up above my head’, was a real favourite and here the phrasing does come across as influenced by Erykah Badu (Horn on the cover also physically resembles a younger sister of Badu) and it features a trombone solo from Frank Lacy.

One of the most interesting combinations of songs into a medley is the unofficial/defacto African-American anthem by James Weldon Johnson, ‘Lift every voice’, which segues into Bobby Timmons’ opus, ‘Moanin’. few singers would even dare to fuse those disparate songs, yet Horn does and she pulls it off too. For further variety, the blues-inflected soul of a classic Norman Whitfield composition, ‘I’m going down’, suits Horn’s voice to perfection and the Les Mccann influenced piano playing of Victor Gould helps create precisely the right ambiance. Horn contributes some wonderful ad-lib and call and response vocals. There is no doubting the major potential here. Just keep on progressing in this manner and the most promising of futures looks assured.

Tim Stenhouse