A Smooth Jazz Tribute to Chuck Workman
LOCATION: Opti Park • 67th & College Avenue
DATE: Sunday, September 16, 2012
COST: $30 ($25 in advance at select Central Indiana Marsh Supermarkets)
Celebrated keyboardist, composer and studio musician, Brian Simpson has been the ‘go-to’ man for everyone from Janet Jackson and Teena Marie to George Duke, Stanley Clarke and Dave Koz, for whom he has had the distinction of being musical director for the past 15 years. The chart-topping musical chameleon who wrote the #1 R&B hit “The First Time” for Surface in the 1990s confesses, “Ultimately, my listeners inspire me to make my music.”
Known for his ability to sculpt timeless love songs, soulful party anthems and melodies that stay on your mind, Brian Simpson is truly a master at his craft. I’ve been to Hawaii, Bali, Indonesia, and several beaches in Florida. The wind, sea, and sand really inspired the melodies you’ll hear.
Simpson’s breakthrough as a solo artist began in 2005 with the #1 radio hit “It’s All Good.” The title track of It’s All Good proved instantly and joyfully prophetic, as it hit #1 on the Radio & Records Smooth Jazz Airplay chart and remained in the Top 5 for four months.
Placing his success in pop aside, Brian Simpson has always been a working jazz musician. He has toured with some of the greats of recent jazz history, including George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, Kirk Whalum, and Jonathan Butler. Brian has been the musical director for jazz saxophonist Dave Koz for the past 15 years, and for the last 8 years the Musical Director, of the highly popular “Smooth Jazz Cruise” featuring Marcus Miller and David Sanborn.
While Maysa is no newcomer to the music scene, her ninth solo CD, Motions of Love (Shanachie Entertainment) that boasts cameos by the legendary Stevie Wonder and neo soul crooner Dwele, promises to introduce the veteran soul and smooth jazz vocalist to the widest audience of her career. She first gained fame as the featured voice on British acid jazz band Incognito’s defining `90s era hits such as “Don’t You Worry About A Thing”, “Still A Friend of Mine” and “Deep Waters.” She then launched a concurrent solo career with the hits “Am I Wrong (For Lovin’ You),” “Friendly Pressure” and “Hypnotic Love.” With a sultry alto on par with Phyllis Hyman and Patti Austin’s honeyed notes, Maysa should be one of the biggest names in the urban mainstream but instead she’s earned a loyal underground audience.
When she was about 14, Maysa’s uncle took her aside and turned her on to jazz. “I used to listen to Janet Jackson and all of that and he wanted me to stop listening to pop music,” she recalls. “He told me to turn on PBS one night and that’s when Al Jarreau was on and I was like oh my God! What is that? I want to do that!”
She then started studying jazz masters ranging from Dianne Reeves and Carmen McRae to John Coltrane and Stanley Turrentine. “I listened to them to get a different sound.,” she adds. “I think all of them are in me somehow.”
The songbird studied music at Morgan State University before heading to California to sing back-up for Stevie Wonder. During a tour break from Wonderlove, she auditioned for Scottish drummer, Steve Harvey, who was best friends with Jean-Paul “Bluey” Manunick of Incognito. Bluey was looking for an American singer to front his band and asked Harvey to compile a list of 25 prospects. He put Maysa on that list. “Bluey asked Steve which one of these singers would you trust with your children and he said me, so Bluey called me first.” Bluey asked her to sing Stevie Wonder’s tune “Don’t Worry About A Thing” over the phone. He, then told her where the official audition would be the next day and to show up there. The following day, Bluey’s manager called her and said she didn’t need to audition after all. Bluey had hired her and wasn’t considering anyone else for the spot.
The next few years were a whirlwind as Incognito reached new levels of fame with Maysa at the forefront. Their 1992 CD Tribes Vibes + Scribes produced the band’s first American urban radio hit with the favorite “Don’t You Worry `Bout A Thing” which was equally huge in Europe. Their 1994 CD Positivity is their biggest seller to date, pumping out megahits like “Still A Friend of Mine” and “Deep Waters.”
A turning point for Maysa came in 1994 when GRP Records Vice President of A&R Carl Griffin experienced an Incognito performance at the Northsea Jazz Festival. “We were playing the biggest room, The JVC room – 18,000 people,” she recalls. “If I waved my hand, they waved their hands. It was one of those surreal moments. At the end of the show, I was walking down the ramp to leave the stage and Carl was walking up. He stopped me and said, `I think its time for your solo career.’”
A year later GRP’s Blue Thumb imprint was releasing Maysa’s self-titled debut CD that featured radio charms “Can We Change the World,” “Sexy” and “What About Our Love?” While firmly established as a soloist, Maysa continued to perform with Incognito off and on. After GRP founders Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen sold their label, they founded N2K Encoded Music and Maysa moved there with them and recorded three other fine albums before joining the Shanachie roster in 2005.
As Maysa looks towards the future, she hopes to one day star in a stage play about the life of jazz great Sarah Vaughn that she’s been working on but her primary mission in the interim is to have the music on Motions of Love heard. “Everything I’ve worked for over the last 20 years,” she sighs. “I just want to see it blossom. There have been a lot of enjoyable parts and a lot of hard things in my career. I just want to get to the place where I’m on people’s minds without anyone asking. If there’s a part in a movie, I want them to say, `why don’t we get Maysa for that role?’ Or, `do you think Maysa would sing on this track?’ That’s all I want. That’s my biggest dream. This CD is the big one. I know it. I can feel it in my heart. I’m so excited.”