Since her 2017 debut A Social Call, Jazzmeia Horn—like her fellow Dallas native Erykah Badu—has plumbed the art of vocalizing in a manner suggesting a gold miner looking to alchemically forge something precious and new. While Badu moved toward neo-soul and hip-hop, Horn found her treasure in slightly askew jazz (and Ntozake Shange-esque poetry) and never looked back. With a resonant voice and a cheeky adoration of scat, she simply brings joy to everything she swings.
For Dear Love—her third album, and first with her Gil Evans-ish band, Her Noble Force, writ large atop the credits—there’s a gentleperson’s agreement: Keep it soulful but always just a little weird. Take the angular, elastic “Let Us (Take Our Time),” or the oblique Ella-meets-Anita O’Day cover of “Lover Come Back to Me” with the band following her rhythmic lead. Take the honking, tooting, body-aching, agave-smelling blues of the spoken-word “I Feel You Near,” or the bifurcated, rim-riding “He Could Be Perfect.” This is the lopsided, triple-knotted tone of Horn’s Noble Force, acting with taste and nuance. This is the tonic sound of a bright singer and ensemble interacting as one fluid lifeforce.
There are more symmetrical numbers too, such as the percolating “He’s My Guy,” on which Horn almost manages the role of a traditional big-band chanteuse, rising horn charts and all, or the gentle Billie-esque ballad, “Money Can’t Buy Me, Love,” where her clarion call is more direct than UPS. Or the slinky organ-driven funk of “Where Is Freedom?,” which causes Noble Force and Horn to jump off the bandstand and shout about how politics and prayer unify.
Horn is one of nu-jazz’s boldest figures, a singular presence. On Dear Love, she’s making Noble Force a giant part of that singularity. When it’s lonely at the top, sometimes you bring a friend.