On her debut album, 2017's A Social Call, 2015 Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition winner Jazzmeia Horn reveals herself as a virtuoso performer in command of a very powerful instrument. A native of Dallas, Texas, Horn studied at Manhattan's The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music before launching her professional career. While deeply indebted to the warm, agile sound of legendary vocalist Sarah Vaughan (in fact, Horn also won the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition), she displays a forceful sense of personal identity, both creatively and philosophically, on A Social Call. Helping to color this view are Horn's bandmates, who include pianist Victor Gould, bassist Ben Williams, drummer Jerome Jennings, saxophonist Stacy Dillard, trumpeter Josh Evans, and trombonist Frank Lacy. Together, they play with an edgy sophistication and openness to improvisation that speak to Horn's own instrumental abilities, which often find her commanding the solo spotlight as she does on her brisk reading of "I Remember You." Produced by Horn and Concord Records' Chris Dunn, A Social Call showcases Horn on a set of well-curated standards that, while landing firmly in the straight-ahead acoustic jazz tradition, nonetheless highlight her progressive, humanistic worldview. It's a holistic approach perhaps best encompassed on her soulful mid-album reworking of the Stylistics' "People Make the World Go Round." Anchored by a funky bass riff, the song starts with Horn's spoken word piece, detailing many of her societal concerns, from environmental pollution and crime to racism, poverty, and the abuses of the meat industry. From there, the song opens up into a frenetically knotty, free-form section in which Horn's band lets loose with an impassioned post-bop group improv before launching back into the singer’s fluid reading of the main melody. It's an utterly commanding performance, evoking the forward-thinking, politically minded work of a latter-day Nina Simone. That she immediately follows up with an effusive mash-up of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and "Moanin'" only works to juxtapose her immense, broadly encompassing talent. Elsewhere, she soars through Betty Carter's "Tight," offers a lithe, honey-coated take on "East of the Sun (And West of the Moon)," and displays her unfettered, instrumental-like vocal abilities on an expansive, Afro-Latin-inflected medley of "Afro Blue/Eye See You/Wade in the Water." Pregnant with her daughter during the recording process (and pictured as such in the inside sleeve, with the Earth superimposed on her belly), Horn's Titanic vocal skills are matched by her depth of character and artistic purpose; all of which inform A Social Call.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar