Formerly the voice of the jazz ensemble Incognito, talented singer/songwriter Maysa’s soothing vocals have been seducing listeners for years, and she explores new territory with her latest release, “Motions of Love.”
Now available in stores, the engaging 14-track disc is largely produced by Chris “Big Dog” Davis, who has also been at the helm of projects by Will Downing and Kim Waters. “This was intended to be an all R&B record with no jazz at all because I’ve never done a whole R&B album before,” said Maysa, who is possibly best known for the Incognito classic, “Deep Waters,” and wrote most of the material included in her new collection.
There are two impressive special guests joining her on this project, including popular neo-soul artist Dwele, who is featured on the hypnotic “Flower Girl,” and I must say that I wish that he’d made a more significant contribution to the track. “Have Sweet Dreams” is a soulful lullaby written by Stevie Wonder and features the music icon on harmonica.
Although she is in fine voice throughout the project, Maysa gives a particularly powerful performance on the poignant “When It’s Over,” a song that she wrote on a plane after a painful breakup. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the inspiring “Hold On,” by Rowan Chapman, which could pave the way for Maysa’s entrée into the thriving gospel market.
Overall, I share the perspective of the artist, who said, “This album has more popular appeal than my other stuff. I love my cult following. I have no complaints about that because that’s more meaningful to me than anything. I don’t want to walk into a store and have to have bodyguards and all that crap. I don’t want that. If people come up to me in the supermarket and give me a hug, I love that. I don’t think I’m doing anything different than Jill Scott or Ledisi. It’s all the same vibe.”
Given the sad state of the recording and radio industries, it’s hard to predict what will happen with a noble project such as this, but if you’re a Maysa fan, or a fan of good music in general, “Motions of Love” is definitely one to add to your collection.
“Day N Night”
“Flower Girl” (featuring Dwele)
“Have Sweet Dreams”
“When It’s Over”
Known and loved by fans for her honesty, the multiple Grammy-nominated singer Ledisi has always focused on a sense of self, purpose and peace. “Better Than Alright: Finding Peace, Love & Power” (Time Home Entertainment Inc.,$16.95) is an innovative writing debut filled with the singer’s personal photos, quotes, lyrics and richly detailed stories of the musician’s journey to acceptance of her beauty, talent and power.
Published in collaboration with Essence magazine, “Better Than Alright” is chockful of meditations, musings, poetry and deeply personal essays. Ledisi also contributes many of the dazzling images that illuminate the text.
“Before I started working on this album and book, I had to figure out what I wanted to offer, not only musically, but also spiritually, emotionally and intellectually,” explained the songstress. “That meant I had to finally embrace the totality of me. Now, I see the greatness in me and that I have much to offer this world.”
Born in New Orleans and raised in Oakland, Calif., (where she says she developed ambition, drive and an appreciation for the opera, gospel and R&B), Ledesi struggled for years. After constant rejection from various record companies, she and a partner formed their own label and released two independent albums, both of which garnered national attention and landed her a major label deal with Verve in 2007. Her success continued with her sixth studio album, “Pieces of Me,” was released on June 14, 2011. It debuted at number 8 on the Billboard 200 Charts, selling 38,000 in its first week. The album’s title track served as the album’s lead single. Ledisi’s sixth studio album, “Pieces of Me,” debuted last year at number 8 on the Billboard 200 Charts, selling 38,000 in its first week. The album’s title track served as the album’s lead single.
Described as having a mix of Tina Turner’s energy, Nina Simone’s brilliance and Ella Fitzgerald’s range, Ledisi has performed at the White House three times at the behest of President and Mrs. Obama. Fans of the singer’s anthems such as “Pieces of Me” and “Bravo,” Ledisi’s recently-released single, will enjoy the uplifting and colorful tone of “Better Than Alright.” Over the years Essence has introduced a wide range of African American authors from Bebe Moore Campbell to recent National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward (“Salvage the Bones”).
“Ledisi is a rare jewel to us,” said Constant White, Essence editor-in-chief. “She first wowed us with her incomparable voice during our Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon a few weeks back and hasn’t stopped since. We then realized there was so much love and power in her lyrics. it was a natural progression for us to collaborate with her on this project. ‘Better Than Alright’ captures Ledisi’s heart, soul and truth. we know that our readers will find peace, love and power in their own lives inspired by this new literary voice. Ledesi can write. She’s a gifted storyteller.”
Readers searching for rich personal tales enveloped in vibrant prose will also enjoy this beautiful book’s meditations, musings, poetry and deeply personal essays.
“Better Than Alright” hits bookstores everywhere on June 5. For more details or to pre-order a copy, visit essence.com/betterthanalright. The Literary Cafe presents Ledisi on June 6 at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
With her new CD “Pieces of Me,” Ledisi proves that she is a woman to know. Loaded with emotion and charged with unparalleled soul, this recording adds another dimension to the persona the singer has been sharing with audiences since her explosive entrance on the music scene a few short years ago. She is like a Sharon Jones-meets-Nina Simone and has an amazing voice and an eclectic sense of style. The vocalist has performed twice at the White House under the enthusiastic patronage of the First Lady (who is one of her biggest fans and swears she listens to Ledisi everyday). “Pieces of Me” is a natural progression for the singer — with each song on the CD bursting with love, intimacy and self-assurance.
“Imagine some of the characteristics of Shug Avery from ‘The Color Purple,’” Ledisi says playfully. “She is fiery, expressive, spiritual and uninhibited. Well, I would say this is my Shug Avery-like project,” she adds with her trademark laughter. Anyone who’s seen her dynamic live show or follows her on Twitter knows this lively and clever side of the singer, and “Pieces of Me” delivers all that and more.
“This project is more layered,” says Ledisi. “All of the songs reveal aspects of the confident woman I am becoming. It’s a discovery of another side of me.”
Following her last two critically acclaimed releases — 2007’s breakthrough hit “Lost and Found,” which was nominated for two Grammy awards including Best New Artist, and 2009’s rock & funk, attention-stealing “Turn Me Loose,” which also garnered two Grammy nods and a No. 1 debut position on the Billboard R&B chart — “Pieces of Me” is a portrait of an artist possessing an involuntary penchant for growth. Delivered by an unmatched voice in its exquisite prime, this CD marks Ledisi’s shining moment.
“What I love about (my new CD) is that there is a happy medium between the old school and the new school where everyone can enjoy it in one household, so it’s really cool,” said the singer. “I love the response from my female fans, but I’m surprised at my male fans’ response as well. The album is more vocal and open and sensual, so it’s doing something right. That’s the part: to please everyone. I love that the songwriting also has resonated with people.”
The title track is an introspective look at a woman discovering her unique offerings to the world. Co-written by Ledisi and in-demand songwriter Claude Kelly (Fantasia, Carrie Underwood), she sings “Like every woman I know/I’m complicated for sure/But when I love/I love till there’s no love no more.” “That’s what a woman does,” she states. “That is power and strength. It’s okay to celebrate being a woman.”
Demonstrating that she can be just as confident as she is loving, Ledisi flips the script on “Hate Me,” a bluesy, juke-joint-worthy track, singing “I know it’s hard to understand/Sometimes a woman wanna act like a man/And when it feels like I’m running things/I know you ‘bout to lose your mind.” “There is great honesty in this song. There are some independent women out there who don’t need permission to be themselves. Writing this song helped me to be okay with the more dominant side of myself.”
For Ledisi, it was a long journey to that “a-ha” moment. Born in New Orleans and raised in Oakland, Calif., where she says she developed ambition, drive and an appreciation for opera, gospel and R&B, Ledisi struggled for years. After constant rejection from recording companies, she and a partner formed their own label on which they released two independent albums, both of which gained national attention, resulting in her 2007 major label deal with Verve. Pieces of Me is a culmination of the challenges she’s experienced and lessons she’s learned.
“Before I started working on this album, I had to figure out what I wanted to offer, not only musically, but also spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. That meant I had to finally embrace the totality of me. Now, I see the greatness in me and that I have much to offer to this world.”
Many of the songs on this album are evidence of this new attitude, including the barefaced “Shut Up,” produced by Mike City (Bilal, Kelly Price). “I wrote this while driving in L.A., listening to the track which I’d had for two months. Someone cut me off on the freeway and I was irate. For some reason, I started thinking about what I wish I could have said to all of the people who said I was never going to succeed by being me. Now, I have a song for all of the naysayers.”
Claude Kelly also lent his platinum pen to two other cuts, including the celebratory “Bravo” — which finds Ledisi declaring her new outlook on life — and “Shine,” a celebratory ode to relationships. “It took me and a whole bunch of people to find that medium, and I just know that I’m in the middle so I want to display that middle on audio,” said Ledisi. “It’s just great to have songs that celebrate you, celebrate life and relate to people. And I've studied a lot of the greats — you have to study in order to find that medium, and it's a lot of hard work put into it. I’m inspired by Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince, The Beatles, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan — the list goes on and on. Abby Lincoln was a wonderful writer. Nina Simone was incredible. People love songs that relate to them; that is feels like, ‘Oh, she wrote this for me.’ And I love that — and it helps people understand other people.
It is clear who Ledisi has become: a complex and colorful woman who is open, self-assured, creative, unafraid and, most of all, inspirational. “Pieces of Me”defines this moment in her life. “Recording this album was my therapy. Every aspect of it is who I am. But, not all of me, just ‘Pieces of Me.’”
After the highest charting release of her career, “Pieces of Me,” which debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and was the No. 1 iTunes R&B Album, four-time Grammy-nominated Ledisi is headlining her first tour and will be performing at Temple Performing Arts Center on October 22. Fans can keep up-to-date with Ledisi’s tour schedule and ticket purchase info on her official website, www.ledisi.com or TicketMaster.com.