Marsha Music

The Detroitist

*New* – We Breathe, by Musique Noire


Checking One Off The Bucket List

It love liner notes – in fact I wrote about them in my story on this website, A Black Woman Remembers Elvis:

“My daddy was a record shop man. Produced, wrote, recorded, pressed, published, and sold records. Growing up, I was surrounded by records, and as a child, I read album covers and liner notes – my earliest history class of the world and the people in it……..

Yes, the LP sized versions were mongraphs of the music and vision of the artist, and often described the worlds from whence they came, too. Sitting around on a hot summer day at my father’s record shop, I’d grab an album cover and read the time away.

It has been my dream to write liner notes for an artist, to be able to articulate the thoughts and feelings that their music evokes and describe the framework for its creation.

Though the large format of the LP changed, with the introduction of the CD, liner notes were still important to me – textbooks in the school of music – full of musical and often historical insight.


My dear friend, Detroit violinist Michelle Ann May, asked me to write the notes for the new CD that she was producing for her jazz/world ensemble Musique Noire, and I did not waste a moment before I said yes to the chance to hone my liner note chops in her service.

Ms. May is prodigiously talented, playing in classical chamber ensembles, Jazz orchestras and leading her own group of gifted musicians. I love her music, so I knew I would love writing about it.

We were on a tight deadline, the completed CD ready to go into production; I hunkered down in headphones, listened in my car, and pulled together the words that came to my head with each tune. Ms. May was happy with the result, hope you like it too:

Of course, my words are just words without the amazing music, and you can find out about it at:



We Breathe, by Musique Noire – Liner Notes, Marsha Music

Detroit is a city of nations. In the 20th century, the hopeful of the world were driven -by its conflicts, depravations, pogroms and droughts – to this place of automobiles and architecture. Jim Crow and starvation drove the oppressed from the South to the land of Detroit.

They fused into a whirlpool of languages and peoples, with sounds born of their old homes and the new. Today, an inheritance of music remains, a gift from the world’s people who inhabited this varied, storied, place.

Michele Ann May, a talented and creative violinist, emerged from this world of multi-ethnic Detroit sounds. Classical, Blues, R&B, Rock, Jazz and Funk; and the music of the Middle Eastern, Indian and Latino cultures of the region – she has loved and played it all. She is here, with an assemblage of some the finest musicians in the city; women with several collective lifetimes of musical experience – and one male guitarist – all versed in the international sounds of this sprawled metropolis.


The Songs – a magical journey through countries and kingdoms:

“Four Women” – the Nina Simone classic is given a distinctive prelude that evokes the East, the ancestral origins of the song’s women of varied colors – and Musique Noire’s women musicians.

– a mystical, lyrical odyssey through Spain, Morocco, the Middle East; with world harmonies and complex aural colors.

“Whiskey and Sangria” – a tune by Irish Jazz violinist Eileen Ivers; a Segovian romp through Spanish byways, with soulful steps along the way.

“Reflections” – composed by percussionist JoVia Armstrong; a tone poem, meditative and jazzy, celebrating the exhilaration of city life and the peace of repose; dedicated to sculptor Elizabeth Catlett.

“Leslie’s Song” – written by Leslie Deshazor; evoking ancestral, African Women, with the percussive syncopation and desert strings of Timbuktu.

“She” – an original tune by Michele Mays, inspired by Alice Coltrane; the resonance of the harp recalled by the plucking of strings, the tune evokes Coltrane’s iconic eastern energy.

“Pretty Ugly” – another tune by JoVia Armstrong; atonal and blue, startlingly emotive, howling with harshness and pain – a compelling music response to police violence.

“We Breathe” – another Mays composition, with spoken word interludes over melodic string musings, dedicated to the strength of women.

Musique Noire is exuberant, jazzy and spirited; conjuring the world sounds of the region, yet rooted in the groove of the resoundingly Black city. For in Detroit there was Motown – and there was also Yusef Lateef. Experience this magical, sophisticated chamber performance – and be transported to many other lands – via soulful, global Detroit.

Marsha Music, for Musique Noire

Musique Noire – “She” from the We Breathe CD


Michelle Ann Mays and Marsha Music