2015 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Vocals Competition winner Jazzmeia Horn was featured as part of the closing exhibition gala for the PyeongChang Olympics on Sunday. Olympic gold medalist and figure skating phenom Alina Zagitova delivered a striking routine, dubbed “priestess of fire,” to the tune of Horn’s haunting rendition of “Afro Blue.” Horn’s distinctive arrangement, which features the singer improvising in vocalese accompanied only by drummer Jerome Jennings, served as a fitting backdrop to Zagitova’s captivating and athletic final performance.
“Afro Blue” appears on Horn’s Grammy-nominated debut album, A Social Call, released in 2017 on Concord Music’s Prestige label. For nearly a decade, Monk Institute Competition winners have enjoyed a guaranteed recording contract with Concord Music Group. For many, a first-place win at the competition represents their first major exposure among the listening public, and is instrumental in taking their burgeoning career to the next level.
This is not the first time Institute artists have been represented at the 2018 winter games. On February 18, Institute teaching artist and International Jazz Day All-Star Dianne Reeves saw her original composition “Tango,” from the 2013 album Beautiful Life, back Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje in their short skate program. This choice jives with the International Skating Union’s selection of “salsa, samba, bachata and/or meringue” as the official dance options for PyeongChang.