maysaOne of the most sensuous singers in the urban adult contemporary/urban jazz realm since the early '90s, Maysa’s unique dual career, while fascinating, is probably what has kept her from breaking out beyond stardom in those niches. In the early ‘90s, she joined the British soul collective Incognito and has since appeared on eight of the acid jazz/groove collective's projects. While performing and recording with that ensemble, she's also built a steady catalog of solo projects, including her first two cover-oriented Shanachie sets Sweet Classic Soul and Feel the Fire.

A few years back, a handful of veteran smooth jazz stars—from Rick Braun and Richard Elliot to Kirk Whalum--turned the concept of old school and contemporary soul cover songs into something of a cottage industry in the genre. On his 2005 album All For Love, saxophonist Kim Waters took a dreamy, ambient approach to Aretha Franklin’s “Daydreaming” with a great assist from Maysa’s rich and smoky vocals.

Inspired by this session, Maysa—a self-described “Underground Diva”--asked herself why these sensuous dips into retro-romance were always done by the boys. Given the green light by Waters’ label Shanachie to offer the feminine perspective, she began plowing through hundreds of songs that inspired her growing up. Her all-time fantasy top ten list translated effortlessly to these two cover albums.

The Metamorphosis on her new disc is not so much in her diverse stylistic approach, which ranges from soothing, old-school, conversational, late-night soul (“My Destiny,” featuring Najee on flute, “Take Me Away”) to sexy, whispery neo-soul (“Never Really Ever”) and dreamy, lightly funky Brazilian jazz on the breezy, cool grooving “Simpatico” and the quasi-Brasil ‘66 vibe of “Higher Love”; this track features smoothie great Nick Colionne snapping on the acoustic guitar beneath Maysa's soaring vocals and Najee's wistful flute charms.

The  change is more about digging deep into a series of sharp originals, some co-penned by the singer and others by artists (like Ledisi) who have a similar soulful world view. Maysa waits till the end before breaking free of her usual comfort zone by going truly universal and scatting her way over a hypnotic exotic groove on “A Conversation with the Universe,” an out there but completely irresistible slice of sonic energy devised by labelmates Global Noize (Jason Miles and DJ Logic). Never one to forget her roots, Maysa also pays homage to Incognito leader Bluey Maunick on the unique “Let's Figure It Out (A Song for Bluey),” which begins as a balmy Colionne-driven instrumental before evolving into a vocal-laden funk-dance track. Maysa's always been an inspiring singer.

Maysa’s always had the kind of velvety smooth voice that makes you feel at home—warm, inviting, intimate and heartfelt. After years of soul searching to find a truer voice for herself, Metamorphosis establishes the Baltimore native as a deeper, more diverse artist of true vision.




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- Jonathan Widran