Jazzmeia Horn

Dear Love

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Dear Love Review

by Matt Collar

Singer Jazzmeia Horn wraps herself in richly textured big band arrangements on her third studio album, 2021's vibrant Dear Love. The album, which follows her Grammy-nominated 2017 album, Love and Liberation, finds her joined by her 15-member big band, Noble Force, featuring pianist Keith Brown, bassist Eric Wheeler, and drummer Anwar Marshall as well as alto saxophonist Bruce Williams, trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, trombonist Corey Wilcox, tenor saxophonist Keith Loftis, and others. Horn is a dynamically gifted performer with a commanding, authentically soulful style that evokes the in-the-flesh artistry of singers like Betty Carter and Dee Dee Bridgewater. One second she's sinking into a dusky vocal melody with ease, the next she's soaring to the sky with an elongated, shimmering falsetto as on her dazzling rendition of the standard "He's My Guy." She also offers several of her own adept original compositions here, including the languid "Let Us (Take Our Time)" and the forceful, Afro-Cuban influenced "Strive (To Be)." That latter track also details Horn's holistic, socially conscious world view, as she takes on such heady issues as climate change, mass incarceration, and the need for people to free themselves from standard ways of being in the world. Other transformative moments, artistic and otherwise, pop up throughout Dear Love. She mutates the Beatles' "Money Can't Buy Me Love" into a swooning, orchestral R&B ballad and includes several vocal interludes featuring her multi-tracked vocal harmonies that spotlight her immense control as both a singer and arranger. In fact, Horn arranged all of the music on Dear Love, framing herself in organic, harmonically engaging horn parts that bring to mind the work of trumpeter Thad Jones in the '60s and '70s. More than just a transcendent jazz vocal album, Dear Love is a masterful amalgam of Horn's all-encompassing artistry.

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