Maysa | Motions of Love

Maysa - Motions of Love

Maysa | Motions of Love
Shanachie Entertainment
By Peggy Oliver

Mentored by an urban music icon and raised by a U.K. jazz soul band, Maysa Leak has breathed sweet life into many songs from the vaults of soul, R&B and jazz catalogs and conveyed many personal tales of love found, lost and found. And though there are still more achievements to conquer, such as developing a stage play about jazz legend Sarah Vaughn, Maysa has etched amazing musical memories, primarily with Stevie (Wonder) and Incognito. For nearly twenty years, Maysa remains firm as a much respected figure for the contemporary R&B and jazz community; since the time a jazz label executive eminently declared the introduction of a solo career.

While studying music at Morgan State University, Maysa found her dream backup vocal in Stevie Wonder’s band, Wonderlove. Without necessarily realizing what the next level would entail, she auditioned for Incognito’s founder Jean-Paul ‘Bleuy’ Manunick in between touring. Naturally, Maysa selected a Stevie song – “Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing.” Nonetheless, this song choice brought Maysa into a long-lasting relationship with the Incognito family. Both their careers then shifted into complete overdrive with Tribes Vibes + Scribes – the band’s first major exposure in 1992 to U.S. urban audiences. Three years later, Maysa was embraced by the contemporary jazz market with four consecutive chart-topping discs for GRP & N-Coded Music. The Shanachie Entertainment era for Maysa began in 2006 with a succession of  sophisticated reinterpretations of jazz and soul masterpieces on Sweet Classic Soul and Feel the Fire.

Maysa’s ninth solo project and latest Shanachie release, Motions of Love, encompasses mostly original songs of love, heartbreak and hope; plus a big blast from the past. Her extensive musical training and savvy still shines through with vocally sound colors even while expanding beyond her sophisticated jazz/soul trademark with hip-hop, disco and country. In the dance department, the vibe of Incognito and that funky acid jazz flavor runs very deep on the opening, “Get Wit Me.” Singer/songwriter Angela Johnson’s gets into the motions with her sweet disco dripping production, “Day N Night,” honoring disco stylists Linda Clifford and Thelma Houston; though with a slight twist, as Maysa AKA MC Macey Mace slips in a seductive rap verse. “Love Sweet Love (LSL)” is another disco delight, co-written by band mate Charles Baldwin. Zoning in on the neo-soul front, Maysa’s sultriness is framed by Dwele’s suave tenor on the groove laden, “Flower Girl.” There is some tasty New Orleans morsels powered by the unplugged, ‘kicked to the curb’ thriller “Your Name’s Not on That List,” anchored by Baldwin and Richard Tucker. Maysa seamlessly bridges Latin jazz and gospel sensibility with “Hold On,” one of the few organic selections featuring a six piece band and choir.

Then there are the ballads with gripping storylines and Maysa’s confident vocal execution. For instance, the title track broods over the love games people play and the country-tinged “When It’s Over” where the love interest is dumped via voice mail. Yet two particular tracks stand out for obvious reason. “Have Sweet Dreams,” a song especially written for Maysa by Stevie Wonder and Kimberly Brewer, is full of Wondersque swoops from the classic soul melodies to the harmonica frosting. Then there is Angela Bofill’s “I Try,” as Maysa’s intricate voice fully amplifies the poignancy and vulnerability of Bofill’s 1979 version.

Sincerity, humor and a warm, poised voice who embraces soul and jazz to the maximum. This is what makes Maysa tick and why Motions of Love clicks in every way. As a aside, I can envision Maysa working it out as Sarah on the big stage in the near future.

Five out of five stars.

Peggy Oliver
The Urban Music Scene