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  • Jonathan Widran

MAYSA, Metamorphosis

One 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.

The Metamorphosis on this 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. It's 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 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. Metamorphosis establishes her as a deeper, more diverse artist of true vision.

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