Jazzmeia Horn On 'Love And Liberation'

Aug 18, 2019
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

There are jazz singers, and then there's Jazzmeia Horn. The music genre is literally part of her name.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREE YOUR MIND")

JAZZMEIA HORN: One, two. One, two, a one. (Singing) Free your mind. And let your thoughts expand. Take your time, only on your command.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Horn has won multiple jazz awards, including the prestigious Thelonious Monk Competition. Her debut album, "A Social Call," was nominated for a Grammy. Now, two years later, the Dallas native is out with her sophomore project, "Love And Liberation." And she joins me now. welcome.

HORN: Thank you so much, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You named your debut "A Social Call" because you said you wanted to speak about the social issues happening in our society. What is the message on "Love And Liberation?"

HORN: Well, "Social Call" was mostly a call to social awareness, and "Love And Liberation" is a call to action. So now that we know what's going on in our society, let's do something about it, starting first with yourself. And the first track on the album is entitled "Free Your Mind" because when you free your mind, everything else will follow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FREE YOUR MIND")

HORN: (Singing) Don't hold on to hatred, that can be a heavy load. You can be free and live to take you where you want to go.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What other song on the album sort of represents this call to action?

HORN: All of them. They are all based on my experiences, my life experiences. There are other songs like "No More" that was written by John Hendricks. You know, I ain't going to let nobody mess with my soul no more, my mind no more, my body no more.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO MORE")

HORN: (Singing) I ain't gonna let nobody mess with my soul no more, no more. I ain't gonna be the kind that does what she's so told no more, no more.

The feeling of this song takes me back to my childhood. The way that I wanted to record it, I wanted it to sound something like Nancy Wilson or Ray Charles or Nina Simone. You know, I wanted to have a really gritty approach to the sound versus something that is, you know, upbeat and swinging and sweet.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAZZMEIA HORN SONG, "NO MORE")

HORN: You know I grew up in church and that backbeat that you hear on this track is very much churchy or gospel. It's a classic R&B feel.

(SOUNDBITE OF JAZZMEIA HORN SONG, "NO MORE")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What made you turn to jazz since we're speaking about your childhood? I understand your grandfather was a pastor, so that's why you did spend so much time in church.

HORN: Yeah. Someone said to me one day, how can your name be Jazzmeia Horn and you know nothing about jazz music?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughing) That seems a little harsh. How old were you?

HORN: I was probably 14, you know, I was a preteen or a teenager. Yeah. So, you know, I thought about it and I was like, well, I don't know. I think jazz is for old people. You know, that was my take on it during that time. And I had a teacher at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts where I went to high school. He gave me a CD with a bunch of songs from different jazz artists like Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown, some of the songs from that album was on there, little Jimmy Scott who I had never heard of before. Just so many great artists and all of their sounds and timbres and textures and phrasing and improvisation was completely different than the other. It was basically like a dictionary of sound of different singers, and that's what really inspired me to sing jazz.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LEGS AND ARMS")

HORN: (Singing) What she looks like on the outside.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to talk about one more song and that's "Legs and Arms."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LEGS AND ARMS")

HORN: (Singing) Legs and arms are all I look at every day. Feet and hands, oh, how I wish I was the man of her dreams. Although it seems she's...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You wrote this song from the perspective of a man who was stalking you, is that right?

HORN: I did. How did you know that (laughter)?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wow. We do our research here.

HORN: That's beautiful. Thank you, thank you. Yeah, I did. I wrote this song. I was studying at the New School University in New York City and I was living in the dormitory in Chelsea. And there was a stalker who just kept watching me in my room consistently every morning. He had figured out my schedule, and I'd see him watching me through the window. And a teacher of mine, I explained to her what was going on, and she said you should write a song about it. You know, you should do something about it that brings joy to you. You know, you should turn the situation into something positive.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, she could have called the campus police, just a thought, but anyway go on.

HORN: She could have, yes. And she said, you know, this is something in your life that is negative and you can turn it into a positive situation. And so I did.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I read interviews where your colleagues describe you as someone who embodies spontaneous creativity. Do you agree? What inspires you?

HORN: Life (laughter) life, my children, my community, the musicians that I work with, people who are in my life that are teachers that don't really know that they're teachers. Just - I'm inspired by so much, so much. Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jazzmeia Horn - her latest album is "Love And Liberation." Thank you very much.

HORN: Thank you, Lulu.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN I SAY")

HORN: (Singing) You won't ever have another like me so I shouldn't have to beg and plead. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.