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Soul Express CD of the Month - January - February 2010

Maysa: A Woman in Love

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A Woman in Love

US Shanachie CD, 2010
1) Am I Wrong (For Lovin' You?) 4:03
2) Love Theory (f. Will Downing) 3:46
3) Round Midnight 4:36
4) Spend Some Time 4:06
5) What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life? 5:24
6) A Woman In Love 4:00
7) The Lady In My Life 4:47
8) Willow Weep For Me 4:39
9) Honey Bee 4:05
10) I Put A Spell On You 5:14
11) When I Fall In Love 2:46

When I first noticed that Maysa has a new album on Shanachie, I was frustrated because this would be her third all-cover set in a short time, the previous two being Sweet Classic Soul from 2006 and Feel the Fire from 2007 on the same label. Luckily, this album is NOT an all-covers set, although it contains several jazz standards. "This CD is special to me because I have always wanted to go back to my roots and training as a jazz singer", explains Maysa in her press release. Accordingly, the new album is a mixture of jazz standards and new songs, all of which have a jazzier feel than any of her previous solo albums. I certainly have nothing against that, on the contrary, since I feel that Maysa is more at home performing these jazz tunes than singing classic soul.

The opening track is a good showcase of this. Am I Wrong (For Lovin' You)? is a new song written by Maysa herself together with her producer Chris Davis, and this fascinating bossa nova rhythmed song reminds me of Maysa singing on Incognito records several years ago. Equally superb is the next song, another new tune Love Theory, which features Will Downing as a guest singer, and Will has also participated in writing the song. I would have loved to hear the whole album in the same mould!

Of the old standards that have been covered on the album, I enjoyed Willow Weep for Me the most. "My approach comes from my own experience with heartache, and I took the ‘I’m slightly pissed off, but I’m okay route!’", Maysa stated in the press release. The background features refined piano soloing and and an excellent trumpet solo by Mike Rodriguez, and Maysa also shows her scatting style on this track.

Another great interpretation is I Put a Spell on You, influenced by Nina Simone's version of the song, featuring Kim Waters on saxophone. Some columnist compared this to Regina Belle's superb 2004 album Lazy Afternoon, and this track is really in the same league.

Maysa's reading of the Thelonious Monk classic ’Round Midnight opens with a trumpet solo but then turns into a synthetic funk-inclined exercise, whereas Maysa's singing is as velvety as ever. Maybe the arrangement would have been better suited to Chaka Khan's style. The Rod Temperton song The Lady in My Life (from Michael Jackson's Thriller) is a bit out of place on this album, but Maysa sings it in her familiar mature style.

The album also contains a couple of modern and trendy programmed arrangements. Honeybee has been written by John Jones who plays vibes on the track, and the overall setting reminds me of recent smooth jazz albums with programmed beats. The title track has a more synthetic feel, but Maysa warms the atmosphere with her ethereal vocals. Similarly, Spend Some Time is a rather faceless programmed mid-beater saved by Maysa's colourful vocalising.

As a whole, a nice mixture of old and new, real musicianship and programmed beats. Certainly not to be missed as "yet another covers set".
- Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

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