Maya Rae – Sapphire Birds – CellarLive CL101818, 37:29 ***:

A mature voice that shows promise.

(Maya Rae – lead & background vocals; Miles Black – piano; André Lachance – acoustic bass; Joel Fountain – drums; Cory Weeds – tenor saxophone on 1/2/6/8/9; Vince Mai – trumpet 1/2/6/7/8/9)

Precocious may be defined as “exhibiting mature qualities at an unusual early age”. This definition may indeed apply to singer Maya Rae, who at fourteen has a mature quality to her singing which she exhibits on her first CD release entitled Sapphire Birds. 

Backed by a sympathetic band, Rae has structured a set list that, for the most part, allows her to emphasize her strengths and minimizes her weakness. Opening with Meghan Trainor’s “Close Your Eyes”, the listener is immediately surprised by the depth and strength of Rae’s voice which certainly belies her age. Maya delivers a heartfelt rendition of this evocative number. Staying in the same vein, Rae delves into Linda Perry’s “Beautiful” and shows the colour she can bring from her voice.

George Shearing’s “Lullaby Of Birdland” may not have been the best choice to delve into the jazz repertoire as it exposes Rae’s youth and vocal inexperience. Scat singing is risky even at the best of times and even for more mature singers, and should be left until her vocal craft is further developed. Rae, however, continues on this scat singing adventure on George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” with not much better result, although drummer Joel Fountain uses his brushes to great effect as he dances over his drum kit.

Throughout the balance of the session, Rae fares much better and controls the material to better results. Her own compositions including the title track “Sapphire Birds” and “So Caught Up” should be viewed in the context of her age at the time in which they were written, and she might have been better advised to give them a miss.

Her interpretation of the Carole King hit “I Feel The Earth Move” tools along smartly with wholeheartedness. The final track is George Gershwin’s “Summertime” done as a duet with bassist André Lachance. Perhaps that might be reason she offers a run through of the lyric in badly pronounced French. Why?  Despite some avoidable missteps, Maya Rae’s voice does have promise and only time will tell if it is fulfilled.

TrackList: Close Your Eyes; Beautiful; Lullaby Of Birdland; Water Under Bridges; I Got Rhythm; Sapphire Birds; Dream A Little Dream Of Me; I Feel The Earth Move; So Caught Up; Summertime

—Pierre Giroux