Jazzmeia Horn’s New Album 'Love and Liberation' Is a "Call to Action"
BY ANDREW COMER
As an artist-proclaimed “call to action” for the problems facing society, Jazzmeia Horn’s Love and Liberation is a beautiful mix of socially conscious lyrics and tender love ballads. With a complex musicality mainly composed by Horn herself, it cements the status of one of the most breathtaking voices in the current jazz scene.
The album begins with “Free Your Mind,” an ebullient swing number accompanied by big band horns and a gentle piano. It urges listeners to expand the horizons of their thoughts and to let go of emotional baggage. The lines, “Don’t hold onto hatred / That can be a heavy load / The pursuit of happiness is inside of you” drive this point home. This leads into the warm sonnet, “Time,” a spoken word piece about a woman pleading with her beloved for more time to be ready to give herself up to him, fully aware of the wonders he could provide. This is exemplified in the lyrics: “You can lay next to my womb, firmly wrapped, And like the sun needs the moon / I’ll be there / But all I need is time.”
In stark contrast, the song plays with soft spoken drums, reflective piano chords, and a trumpet that seems to wail through the past of the central narrator. These first two pieces on the record act almost like a couplet in a poem, setting the tone and concurrent paths the music will take. Melodically and lyrically, Horn is confronting problems on a spiritual and personal level on these tracks while still keeping the confidence and tremendous flexible vocality that sets her apart from other jazz singers.
There is a real maturity on this record, as well, as Horn expounds on the titular theme of liberation in “No More.” The song sways along with a pounding, blues-inspired piano and smokey percussion. Horn’s voice is at its deepest pitch here, adding to the authority of the musicality and the message of the song. It is a crooning Road-to-Damascus, a song about the realization that negativity around you is not going to bother you anymore and that you own yourself in that respect. In the lines, “I ain’t gonna let nobody mean treat me mean no more, I don’t care about rebuke and scorn / I’ve been struggling right along since I’ve been born,” Horn addresses society’s habit of putting people down who are all struggling on the same path towards fulfillment. It reflects an incredibly cultural-minded artist willing to make bold statements about herself, as well as her audience.
While most of the songs are uptempo, Horn’s strongest emotions come out in the record’s quietest moments. In “Legs and Arms,” you can find a lush expression of love from afar, completely dependent on the narrator’s apprehension. The drums here are almost orchestral, rising and falling with the progression of the story. The angelic piano harmonizes with Horn’s breathy, at times strained, vocal performance. This raw quality to her voice only deepens the sympathy for the song’s central character. Romantic frustration is palpable in lines such as, “Oh, how I wish I was the man of her dreams / Although it seems, she’s not interested in love / If only I could just lie next to her.” This displays Horn’s incredible charisma and versatility, conveying an emotional, lyrical story for a running time of over seven minutes, breathing unreciprocated love.
On the other side of that is “Reflections of My Heart,” a duet with Jamison Ross and a heavy affirmation of love, finding two narrators declaring exactly what the other’s love has done to them. The instrumentation is the most tender here. The piano is more like a harp, and the drummer relies heavily on the cymbals, giving the music an evanescent quality. It is the most complex composition on the album, with both instruments quietly battling to stay dominant but never becoming disorganized. Both of these soft ballads establish Horn as an artist completely aware of her surroundings sonically, as well as how to move within them with effortless style and grace.
With Love and Liberation, Jazzmeia Horn has created an album that is so much more than a crooner’s album, but a piece of music with social distinction: a complex expression filled with the kind of multi-faceted beauty, color, and warmth found in a stained-glass window. As you listen to it, the emotions present, however unrelated they may be to us, can still be felt. That is the mark of true artist. One can only hope that an artist capable of such a feat takes her rightful place in the pantheon of all-time great jazz singers.
You can listen to Love and Liberation on all streaming platforms.
Lead Image Credit: Jazzmeia Horn / Instagram