Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole's Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Often described as the best kept secret on urban AC radio, the incredible Maysa has just released her ninth solo CD, the totally outstanding Motions Of Love. Substantially produced by Chris 'Big Dog' Davis, the album is, in part, Maysa's way of moving on from a recently broken relationship yet, in purely musical terms, the original intent was to deliver what for her would have been a first, an all R&B recording. In the event it has evolved into a fourteen-track R&B collection dappled with funk, jazz and disco with a little New Orleans gumbo thrown in for good measure. Without doubt it is Maysa's most commercial project to date and at long last looks set to open her appeal to the wider urban mainstream.
Motions Of Love opens with the zesty 'Get Wit Me' which resonates with the jazzy attitude so prevalent in her early Incognito work while despite the CD's intensely personal nature the sensationally soulful title cut was given to Maysa by husband and wife singing - songwriting duo, Tony and Joann Kemp after a chance meeting at an Incognito gig. It has the sort of relaxed groove that is to die for and is an immediate personal favorite whilst when she ratchets up the tempo for the disco styled 'Love Sweet Love' the result is every bit as good. Written by Maysa, her bassist Charles Baldwin and keyboard player Damon Bennett this is a number which, for her, represents quite a departure and another is the sumptuous urban anthem 'Special Place' that has the potential to get in your head and not go away.
For the last couple of years Maysa has toured extensively with vocalist Angela Bofill who suffered severe stokes in both 2006 and 2007. Although these afflictions have left Bofill unable to sing at her previous standard she uses her live appearances to narrate her life story with Maysa singing the songs. Consequently the inclusion on Motions Of Love of Bofill's 1979 classic, 'I Try' is especially poignant and Maysa stays in reflective mode for 'When It's Over' that she wrote during a forty five minute plane journey. Davis' production incorporates attention grabbing horns and wonderful backing vocals whereas when she reprises the track later in the album, the addition of smoky sax from Carl Cox Jr provides an entirely new dimension.
Of course it is well chronicled how, back in 1991, Maysa went directly from Morgan State University to sing backup for the legendary Stevie Wonder as part of his Wonderlove backing group. Now, twenty years on, the pair are reunited as Wonder co-writes, plays harmonica and sings backing vocals on the romantically inclined 'Have Sweet Dreams'.
Another gem in an album crammed full of them is the delicious 'You Won't Find Your Way' that she co-writes with Kim Waters. It affords the perfect vehicle for Maysa's sultry yet heartfelt tones and although 'Your Name's Not On The List' takes her briefly into country blues territory she is firmly back on R & B message with the easy grooving 'Come And Dance With Me'. More mellifluous magic comes in the form of 'Flower Girl' for which Maysa enlists the assistance of neo soul artist Dwele and as she slips into an enticing Latin rhythm the outcome is the spiritually themed 'Hold On'.
However, given the R & B styled theme of the entire project my Secret Garden top tune is the high octane, retro tinged 'Day N Night'. With the ability to fill the largest of dance floors this shimmering song is Maysa's own tribute to disco divas such as Linda Clifford and Thelma Houston.
Motions Of Love is out now on Shanachie and comes highly recommended.
Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.