As part of Jazz Under the Stars, Maysa brings a soulful sound
by Rita Charleston | The Philadelphia Tribune
Jazz Under the Stars continues Oct. 7 with soulful jazz singer Maysa with the Gerald Veasley band at the Mann Center.
With a career spanning more than 30 years, Maysa Leak, better known simply as Maysa, has collaborated with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Incognito, Angela Bofill, Will Downing, Jonathan Butler, and so many more. It’s no wonder she was the recipient of many awards for her work, including Soul Train’s first Centric Award in 2009, and her first Grammy nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance for her remake of Nancy Wilson’s “Quiet Fire.” And it all came from a welcoming surprise when the Baltimore native could only dream about success in the music business.
“After high school, I studied music at Morgan State University,” she says, “and graduated with a degree in classical performance. While there, I was a member of the Morgan State University choir, and it was there that I met Stevie Wonder.”
Maysa acknowledges that the meeting was amazing. She remembers, “My best friend Kim Brewer was already working with Stevie and they were good friends, so I was able to speak to him over the phone.”
Later, when she was given a chance to audition for the musical giant, Maysa explained to him that she had but one year left before receiving her college degree and wanted to finish that year; Wonder was very understanding.
“He told me to wait and to come see him when I was done,” she shares. “A lot of people may not have been able to understated my actions — to turn down Stevie Wonder sounded crazy — but he was so gracious and so understanding, and later I was able to join Stevie’s female backup group Wonderlove and do the ‘Jungle Fever’ soundtrack with him.”
Aside from being a wonderful opportunity for the young singer, Maysa says she learned a lot from the marvelous man of music. “One thing I learned was how to work with people who are at a certain level.
“Steve is not a ‘diva’ or difficult to work with,” she explains, “but rather a serious, hardworking man, and I was very fortunate to have learned so much from him.”
This past March, Maysa released her 14th studio album titled “Music For Your Soul.” Aside from the music, she’s added a new title to her résumé — that of label executive. Maysa established Blue Velvet Soul to exercise fuller control over all creative and commercial aspects of music making.
“I wasn’t getting the kind of publicity or marketing backup for my albums that I thought I deserved,” she notes, “so I thought if they are going to just throw my music out there, I might as well just throw it out there too, and own it. And that’s what prompted me to start my own record label.”
Today, making music is not the only thing Maysa loves to create. In 2016, she launched Maysa’s Kitchen Karaoke Sundays on Facebook Live where she performs, cooks, and does lively interviews with invited guests. This is the seventh successful year of #MKKS.
Maysa is proud of everything she does, and is quick to say that includes being the mother of her son Jazz, who was born prematurely at 25 weeks while she was on tour with Incognito in 1999. Today Jazz is a photographer, videographer and music producer. The pair continue to be very, very close.
So with all her awards and accolades — and a loving son — is there anything Maysa hasn’t done yet that she’s still looking forward to?
For more information on Maysa and her performance with the Gerald Veasley band, visit manncenter.org.