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Jazz vocalist Jazzmeia Horn living her best life

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Jazz vocalist Jazzmeia Horn living her best life
Jazzmeia Horn. PHOTO: Jacob Blickenstaff

Jazzmeia Horn dreamed of being on stage ever since the age of 3, when she was singing in her grandfather’s church choir at Golden Chain Missionary Baptist Church in her native Dallas, Texas.

Born into a musical family — her mother was a gospel singer, her father a drummer and her grandmother a gospel pianist — Horn’s dream has manifested itself even more fully than she ever thought possible.

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The powerhouse vocalist has traveled the globe sharing her music with audiences in England, France, Spain, Italy, China, Japan and the Netherlands, and is set to share her music with Boston audiences at the RISE Music Series on March 28 at 7 p.m. at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Coming from a musical background that included not only gospel, but also soul, pop and R&B, she attended the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts, “which is where I found and discovered jazz, or where jazz found and discovered me,” said Horn in a recent phone interview. The school is also where she discovered Sarah Vaughan, courtesy of her high school teacher and mentor Roger Boykin. After listening to a compilation CD that he had given to her featuring a number of vocalists, hearing Vaughn’s voice and music sparked something inside of the teen. She knew that jazz was the path she wanted to explore.

Awarded a scholarship, she attended the School for Jazz and Contemporary Music at The New School in New York City upon graduating from high school. While there, she began pursuing a solo career, performing in jazz festivals and nightclubs.

In 2013, Horn entered the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, where she took first place, after having earned a Rising Star Award the previous year. Horn recalls thinking about how Vaughan would sing the song and what might she have been going through during the time that her music was very influential to the public. “I tried to recreate that experience,” she says.

Two years later, Horn won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition, for which she was awarded a recording deal with Concord Music Group.

In 2017, she released her debut album, “A Social Call,” which Downbeat Magazine described as a “deft balance between mid-century jazz and contemporary neo-soul.” Horn received her first Grammy nomination for the album in the category of Best Jazz Vocal at the 60th Grammy Awards in 2018, where she received a standing ovation for putting her creative spin on Bobby Timmons’ “Moanin.’”

Next up for Horn is the release of her second album this summer, which she says will not be like the first. It won’t be as political. Instead, it will be about love and liberation, and all of the songs on this sophomore effort will be her original compositions.

For Horn, who turns 28 this year, it’s always been about the music — sharing the music with her audience, her children, her family and her band members. She can’t imagine being anything other than a musician. “I don’t know if my head would be even right on my shoulders,” she says, about having an occupation other than music. “I am truly living my best life. I couldn’t ask for another life right now. It’s magic.”

If you go

Where: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Calderwood Hall

When: Thursday, March 28, 7:00 pm

Tickets: Includes Museum admission. $27 for adults; $24 for seniors; $17 for members; $15 students and children; and youth age 7 and under not admitted. 

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