Review: Jazzmeia Horn at the Kennedy Center Jazz Club

To understand the voice of Jazzmeia Horn — whether it’s embodying her own ballad, the cleverly romantic, soft “Legs and Arms,” or taking on the role of an instrumentalist — is to understand what it means to listen.

Jazzmeia Horn. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

For that voice is pure sound, pure feeling, pure like a saxophone is pure, like a young and transforming heart is pure as it seeks a better world.

So that’s exactly what I did for the 85 minutes that Jazzmeia Horn and drummer Darrian Douglas, pianist Mark Meadows, and bassist Barry Stephenson filled the KC Jazz Club Friday night. I listened.

And her voice, like the most magical of birds singing her euphoria, filled my heart with wonder.

Ms. Horn began the set with the music of one of her mentors, Betty Carter. And she immediately established her scat singing’s unique brand. An array of sounds–clicks and tap, bops and bips, wows and winks–flowed through the auditorium. If the human voice can make it, Ms. Horn offered it to the crowd.

With her second piece, however, “Time,” she let us know that, if anything, she isn’t predictable; for “Time” is more poem than song.

Ms. Horn proved the same when she proffered the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and the gospel “Wade in the Water.”

Of course, Barry Stephenson’s bass and Darrian Douglas’s drums gave us several solos that were perfectly in sync with the scat singing’s trills.

And then in the final number, a fabulous rendition of “Bye Bye Blackbird,” Mark Meadows’ piano let us soar.

The best moments of the evening, however, were those when Ms. Horn turned to the audience and invited us into the chorus. “I Love Myself” and “I Am Wise” and “I Am Strong” sung by the women and then the men seated at the KC Jazz Club tables.

To be sure, Jazzmeia Horn’s message is her music, but it is also her unflinching desire to turn the negative into a positive that inspires her performances.

She embodies that love most of all.

Running time: 85 minutes, with no intermission.

Jazzmeia Horn performed on Friday, February 10, 2017, at The Kennedy Center’s KC Jazz Club – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For the full season at the Jazz Club go online.


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