The Usher Hall Edinburgh tonight was the last in a series of three exclusive concerts (the others concerts previously at Perth and Glasgow) featuring the SNJO and the rising fast through the world of Jazz, American vocalist Jazzmeia Horn.
How best to describe Jazzmeia Horn? The accolades that this young singer (born 1991) is gathering are impressive, and include a Grammy Award nomination, but away from “trophies”, Jazzmeia Horn is simply a voice and a talent that comes along maybe once in a generation. Here, with Jazzmeia we have the opportunity to watch at an early stage of her career an artist who is going to give so much more to not just Jazz, but music in general in the years to come, and if there is any justice in this world, take her place as one of the great Jazz vocalists alongside legendary names like Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald.
For me, Jazzmeia Horn is a singer out of time, and I don’t mean musical time as that is always perfect no matter how she chooses to interpret or improvise upon it in a song – here I mean time as belonging to that golden age of when the great jazz vocalists were performing live. Watching Jazzmeia perform special arrangements of standards and her own new material was like watching the type of vocalist that “they just did not produce anymore”. Here, everything that many of us recognise as great vocal talent was there on stage, but it was not dated, and had a sharp and contemporary edge to it.
For any singer, performing in front of a big band like the SNJO is a demonstration of not only vocal ability, but the perfection in timing required to never be out of step with the band’s arrangements, and as Jazzmeia played with the very wide vocal range of her voice, moving above and below the SNJO’s performance whenever she wanted to, it was obvious from the very first song tonight here that a very special talent was on stage.
From specially arranged standards (often by Bill Dobbins) such as “Honeysuckle Rose” and “The Peacocks” to Jazzmeia’s own “Legs and Arms” and “Social Call”, the ability of this singer to not only tell a story in song, but to make you believe in the people in that story is exceptional.
This was though not only Jazzmeia’s, but also the SNJO’s night, proving yet again the quality of the orchestra and Tommy Smith both as its director and a solo performer (along with other soloists tonight). Jazzmeia Horn and SNJO are a perfect partnership together.
Review by Tom King