Spring break for Berklee College of Music students provides a treat for everybody else, as a modern, high-ceilinged cafeteria at 160 Massachusetts Ave. turns into an intimate, striking performance space for the Celebrity Series’ Stave Sessions.
Grammy-nominated vocalist Jazzmeia Horn lived up to her descriptive name on Tuesday to kick off the fourth year of the program, named after a musical staff and continuing nightly through Saturday with eclectic, cutting-edge acts.
Showcasing her gift for scat-singing (almost to a fault in a couple of longer songs on Tuesday), the 26-year-old wunderkind stretched her voice across registers with playful articulation and elastic fluidity that reminded of a horn player, even when she wasn’t tapping fingers against the microphone to accent that comparison.
In turn, when Horn—dressed in African-styled prints and head wrap—called for a blues, the subsequent “Night and Day” turned into a malleable samba with the finger-snapping singer’s simpatico band, her body lurching with each phrase. Then she led the audience (general admission, split between tables and chairs below and a wrap-around balcony) in riffs around a theme of self-love. And before her set was over, the Dallas native injected a broad call to address social-political issues such as starvation and pollution and gave a concerned shout-out to communities under siege from Flint to Austin. She’s poised to turn heads when she hits the Newport Jazz Festival on Aug. 5.
The Stave Sessions continue this week with the classical/hip-hop Ensemble Mik Nawooj on Thursday, a double bill of My Brightest Diamond (vocal star Shara Nova) and flute virtuoso Claire Chase on Friday, and local art-rock force Bent Knee performing with the Boston Conservatory at Berklee Percussion Ensemble on Saturday. With a stage flanked by three-story windows to the street below, plus crisp sound and lights from high overhead rigs, they’ll have quite the platform to shine as well.