The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra follows up last month’s tribute to Nelson Mandela with a video of a song taken from the orchestra’s concert with the Texan rising star singer Jazzmeia Horn in Edinburgh last November, writes Rob Adams.
Arranged by pianist and jazz educator Bill Dobbins, Free Your Mind was written by Horn and first appeared on her second album, Love & Liberation, which like her debut release, A Social Call, was nominated for a GRAMMY.
SNJO director, saxophonist Tommy Smith, was introduced to Horn’s singing at Rochester Jazz Festival in 2018 on the festival director John Nugent’s recommendation.
“I was hypnotised by her presentation of each lyric,” says Smith. “It was so vivid and credible, her storytelling and improvisation took jazz singing to another level. To be honest, I thought I might listen to a few songs and then go and check out something else but I stayed for the whole concert and afterwards, I bought her CD and decided that we had to introduce her to audiences in Scotland.”
Horn played concerts with the SNJO in Perth and Glasgow as well as Edinburgh and made a huge impression. Mark McKergow reviewed the Edinburgh concert at Usher Hall for LJN, describing Horn’s singing as “stunning” and singling out Free Your Mind as “surely destined to be a standard of the future.”
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Born and raised in Dallas, Horn was given the name Jazzmeia by her grandmother, a church pianist and jazz fan, and she cites Sarah Vaughan and Abbey Lincoln among her influences. She has been mentored by Bobby McFerrin and Jon Hendricks and came to wider attention when she won the coveted Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition in 2015.
Tommy Smith, who edited the video during lockdown at home in Lanarkshire, says he hopes the SNJO will get another opportunity to work with Horn but recognises that live concerts face an uncertain future for now.
“Jazzmeia’s a fantastic talent,” he says. “She also keeps herself busy. She has a new book coming out on 21 August called Strive from Within: The Jazzmeia Horn Approach. She’s also teaching at the New School University in New York City and has an online course called The Jazz Horn Initiative. We’ve had to reschedule our 2020 concerts into 2021, so we’ll have to see if Jazzmeia’s schedule and ours can align sometime after that.”