At this moment, one of the hottest, rapidly rising young jazz singers is the phenomenal, 24-year-old Jazzmeia Horn, a life force on stage.
She sets down with her high-octane band to strut her passionate, freewheeling style on Saturday, April 16, at 8:00 pm at the 19th annual Jazz for Juvenile Diabetes benefit dinner/concert in West Hartford Center.
Winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition, the Dallas-born, Harlem-based performer is already basking in lavish praise, including favorable comparisons to such immortal divas as Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter.
Recently returned from a European tour, the charismatic singer/composer will demonstrate what all this escalating Jazzmeia/jazz mania is all about as she performs at the benefit dinner/concert at Town Hall at 50 South Main Street in West Hartford.
Everything about the singer -- even her jazzy given name, Jazzmeia -- seems to have destined her to become a jazz singer. And yes, her first name, Jazzmeia, is her real name, not a snappy stage name conveniently fabricated by an agent for a young, budding jazz super nova.
“My late grandmother, who was married to the church reverend and played piano and organ in the church, gave me my name, Jazzmeia,” Horn explained by phone.
“She wanted to be a professional musician,” Horn said, “but with her husband as the church minister, she was the church’s First Lady, and so was not allowed to play secular music like jazz or blues professionally. Even before I was born, she had picked out my first name. So in a way, I’m continuing her legacy.”
Almost immediately, music became a central part of Horn’s life -- so much so that she can’t remember any time when she wasn’t singing.
“I sang in the choir in our family church from the age of three until I graduated from high school. My dad played drums,” she said of her music-blessed childhood.
That family tradition, she added, is being continued by her 15-month-old daughter, Ma’at.
“Yeah, man, she wakes up singing! I take her everywhere I go,” said Horn, who’s married to the West African trumpeter, Lesedi Ntsane. “She’s already been to Germany, Copenhagen, Austria, South Africa, and travels the world and isn’t even two years old yet,” she said.
Horn -- an ideal surname for this singer who improvises fluent, horn-like lines -- took an early big step down the jazz path while a student at Dallas’s famous Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. One of her teachers was the nationally known multi-instrumentalist, Roger Boykin.
She recalled, “Roger came up to me one day with a CD in hand, and said, ‘I want you to check this out, and if there’s anything there you like, let me know.’ And one tune that I heard -- Sarah Vaughan singing 'Shulie-a-Bop' -- just blew my mind!” she said.
“When I heard that tune,” Horn said, “I knew that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I don’t care what I have to do to get there, I’m going to do that.”
What seized her imagination, she said, was Vaughan's striking originality and distinctive style. Those are qualities she herself brings to bear on everything she sings, whether in her well-known gift for straight-ahead, blues, and ballads, or with African jazz, gospel, or other genres in her wide repertoire.
Asked about her thoughts on her soaring fame, Horn said, “Actually, being a mom and a wife and teacher and musician, I just don’t have time to think about it.”
As for long-term goals, she said, “I just allow the spirit of God to move me where that needs to be. I’ll know when I get there.”
Dinner is catered by the noted chef Billy Grant of Grant’s and Restaurant Bricco, with dessert by Whole Foods in West Hartford Center. Hors d’oeuvres at 7:00 pm; dinner at 8:00 pm. Sizzling jazz fare by Horn and her collaborating cookers served until 11:00 pm.
Long one of Connecticut’s classiest annual jazz events, the benefit is the meticulously hand-crafted creation of the jazz-loving, Hartford-based physician and noted photographer, Dr. Steven Sussman.
You Can Go Home Again
Anytime Brad Mehldau, the renowned, globe-trotting pianist/composer, returns home again to play in Hartford, the special, most welcome occasion inevitably marks one of the region’s finest concerts of the season.
A deeply lyrical, boundlessly inventive musician with a passion for taking adventurous paths, Mehldau presents a solo concert on Sunday, April 17, at 7:00 pm in the sanctuary at Asylum Hill Congregational Church at 814 Asylum Avenue in Hartford.
Even as an extremely gifted young student in the nationally noted jazz program at West Hartford’s Hall High School, Mehldau seemed driven by an irresistible artistic urge to create affectingly expressive, vibrant music in his own unique voice covering the whole gamut of emotion from joy to melancholy. All those ambitions have been abundantly fulfilled as he evolved from wunderkind to world wonder while, at the same time, remaining an intellectually curious, bold wanderer/explorer, perpetually seeking the road less traveled. And that has made all the difference.
While he has expanded the fine art of the piano trio -- among numerous other artistic achievements -- he is also a sublime, resourceful and fascinating solo pianist, celebrated for his brilliant keyboard conversations with himself.
His eloquent solo piano self-portraits of the artist are deeply personal. Yet, simultaneously, they’re also profoundly universal, connecting globally with listeners, even bonding complete strangers whose only common ground is Mehldau’s music, mind and soul at that particular moment in time.
A chance to hear Mehldau’s evocative music in a spiritual setting at the elegant West End sanctuary -- a sanctified space unsullied by nightclub chatter and clatter -- sounds like the answer to a devout pianophile’s prayers. Admission: $25.00. Information: ahcc.org and (860) 525-5696.
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