By Danny R. Johnson – Jazz and Pop Music Critic
SAN DIEGO–Ironically, Concord Jazz chose to release the talented and gifted song stylist Jazzmeia Horn’s second album titled “Love and Liberation,” on August 23, 2019, which coincided with the very week the nation observed the 400th anniversary of the first recorded arrival of 20 enslaved Africans who arrived in Point Comfort, a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia on August 20, 1619. Though America did not even exist yet, their arrival marked its foundation, the beginning of the system of slavery on which the country was built.
Whether Horn or the record label knew in advance this momentous occasion or not is irrelevant because prophetically speaking, “Love and Liberation” is a testament of the endurance and resiliency of Horn as an arranger, producer, singer, and bandleader; and this album can also be labeled as a living tribute to the enduring spirit of the African American people who have contributed immensely and richly to the various musical idioms of jazz, pop, R&B, and blues over the past 400 years.
Jazzmeia Horn delivers all the indelible musical idioms I’ve just mentioned in “Love and Liberation” in top form: She is more relaxed, swinging and adventurous across a full span of rhythms and moods than on her 2017 GRAMMY Award-nominated first album, “A Social Call.”
There is just no let-up on this album: The 12 songs on this album are what might be considered “pure jazz, R&B, pop, and blues” consisting of eight Horn originals among them the swinging and marvelous opening tune called “Free Your Mind.” She slows it down a little bit with a soft and soulful original “Time,” which lasts only a minute and a half, but serves as a witty introduction to the next fluctuating original “Out of the Window,” which Horn shows off her painlessly and effective scatting and melodic timing abilities.
Horn collaborated with numerous gifted musicians in producing this album: pianists Victor Gould (her regular accompanist) and special guest Sullivan Fortner, tenor saxophonist Stacey Dillard and trumpeter Josh Evans, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer/singer Jamison Ross. Chris Dunn, who produced Horn’s debut disc, is producer on this album as well.
Even though Horn has only two albums to her discography and is only 28-years old, her output and the amount of devotion she lends to energy, time and attention to the words and melodies of each of her songs are impressive in terms of both quality and delivery as Ella Fitzgerald’s and Betty Carter’s. She’s definitively rising very quickly to their level!
Horn has proven to be successful in such a competitive environment because she has an enormous range, uses dramatic intervals to heighten the stage impact of the songs, and most importantly she has perfect diction; there is no point in recording somebody’s else’s work if you can’t hear the beauty of the word forms. To sustain an audience through long performances perfect timing is required, and this is where the jazz influence and the spirits of Ella and Carter provided the essential musical ingredient for Horn.
“Love and Liberation” is as near to perfect the album can get and there is no better music; the musical arrangement is tight and free-flowing and Horn’s delivery is neat, attractive, and evolutionary. Your record collection is not complete if you don’t own this album.