JazzEye: Maya Hits Town

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There was a lot of stormy weather around and a whirlwind tour of Durban by songstress Maya Spector qualified as part of it. Potent, packaged and punchy, this jazzy powerhouse delivered her first blows at the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music last week before going on to knock ‘em over at The Sound Café, Jazzy Rainbow and Suncoast. Backed by a local band comprising Shemual Mahabeer on piano and keys, LLewelyn Chetty on electric bass, Phumlani Mtiti on sax and Riley Giandari on kit, Maya delivered a well rounded set filled with creative content, emotive interpretation and solid technique

Maya Spector is not from Durban, but studied here at UKZN, graduating in 2009. Since then, she has carved a career for herself as a performer, adding melody and lyric writing to her skills. Presenting herself with confidence, this hard working musician puts everything she has into her performance and that’s saying a lot. She has depth, range and excellent control. She thinks about what she is singing and her voice colours the thought appropriately. She has sensitivity on the verge of hyper and her chosen field of artistry offers her a channel for an excess of energy that is simply outrageous.

Maya kicked off her Alma performance with a nicely modulated version of ‘My Romance’, in which we could appreciate the timbre of her voice and get a handle on her scatting style, which has moments of sheer genius. Her band was a band of gentlemen; they gave her the limelight and kept up with every nuance, taking advantage of the small breaks to show off their considerable chops. She hit the blues then with Melody Gardot’s ‘Who will Comfort Me?’ but. took it up the Richter scale with some serious growl technique and a dab of vocal frying. The house was rocking and snapping their fingers and obediently providing the ‘Oh Lord’s’ and it was a hit. Then there was ‘There Will Never be Another You’ taken at a heck of a pace, a technique that exercises the capacity to enunciate clearly and is pretty much a tongue-in-cheek approach; this style is not my favourite as it is impossible to give the ballad meaning, but if you can do it, why not flaunt it? Her compliant and experienced band rushed to her rhythm and held it in place. 

Maya moved out of standard and into original territory with ‘City Lights’ - a smoky love song that lingered and smooched and moved easily into her next song ‘Eyes for You’, also a song of submission to passion and filled with emotional yearnings. Before we all got too sentimental, Maya crashed into Amy Winehouse’s magnificently heartfelt ‘Back to Black’; a great harbinger for her own ‘Bad Man’, in which her faithless lovers are given the dressing down of their lives. Having released her vitriol, Maya was in the mood for gentle reflection with ‘Tiny Little Bird’, a nicely observed incident reflecting her own vulnerability and need for safety and she rounded it all off with the jaunty ‘Simple Little Song’, a cheer-me-upperer that smoothed ruffled feathers, settled the rattled cages and reminded us that life, after all, is fun.

Was it a faultless performance? Vocally I found it really strong in all the ways it needed to be. I would have liked to see the other musicians on stage given a little more free play time and I think the intermediate patter could do with attention; it’s smart and sassy and sometimes funny. but for  overall polish it needs as much time and attention as the vocal stuff to make the package perfect. That said, Maya impressed with her repertoire, her presence, her energy and her artistry. Blow by again, any time!


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