It’s always a challenge for me to find great male jazz vocalists. I am picky to the point of obsession, and, when Frank Sinatra of the perfect phrasing, diction, pitch and timbre is your standard, who can ever measure up? So I search and search and usually come up dry. And then, I discovered Michael Mayo. Well sort of. I should have—he has accomplished so much in three short years since he graduated from NEC. I was just lucky.
Michael Mayo fell into my lap with only four degrees of separation. Julian Shore (who appears on LJF this year following Mayo on August 5) told me about him. Julian is the partner of another wonderful pianist, Carmen Staaf. Carmen was a member of the most recent Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Ensemble, a quintet competitively chosen for a 2-year Master’s program by the Monk Institute. Michael and that band got to play 3 hours a day coached by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Herb Alpert, Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Heath. When I discussed the “Discovering Genius” theme for 2017 with Julian, a Litchfield family member who began as a 12-year-old camper, he, without hesitation, recommended Michael Mayo.
I checked Michael out and discovered a voice nature only bestows on a precious few— pitch perfect, moving, the works. He sent me an a cappella clip. Brave. There’s no place to hide. That was all it took for me to invite Mayo to lead his own group at Litchfield this year.
Michael was recently featured on American Voices, a PBS Great Performances special hosted by Renée Fleming. This show grew out of the Kennedy Center’s 2013 American Voices Festival for which Mayo was selected (one of 4 vocalists) to participate in a Master Session with Dianne Reeves. The next day, Mayo was asked to sub for an indisposed Kurt Elling!
The son of professional musicians, the 22-year-old Los Angeles native now a New Yorker, has performed live with Usher among others. He has recorded with Michael Jackson and on the soundtracks of Hairspray: The Movie, High School Musical 3, and The Polar Express. On TV he has appeared in Home for the Holidays, VH-1 Awards, and An Evening of Stars: A Tribute to Quincy Jones.
You can listen here …. VWM