She is best known for her original instrumental music spanning genres from jazz fusion, to folk, to blues, to rock, but Estonian-born bass player and composer Mai Leisz’s latest single marks the first cover song of her career. With Mai’s version of Crosby, Stills, & Nash’s “Guinnevere,” featuring her melodic fretless basswork in conjunction with drummer Gary Novak, electric guitarist Michael Landau, and her multi instrumentalist husband Greg Leisz, the bassist is not merely covering a song that she likes, but paying tribute to its writer David Crosby, one of the central figures in kickstarting her career.
Stream “Guinnevere” HERE
Since 2017, Mai has served as Crosby’s touring bassist and first started playing in the studio with the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee in December 2015.
“So far I’ve only released original music but I wanted to pay homage to Crosby who has been a life changing force in my life,” Mai said. How she came to the attention of the former Byrds and CSN member was a combination of her virtuosic instrumental prowess and being in the right place at the right time. Just six months before going into the studio with Crosby for the first time, Mai was in Sweden studying for a masters degree at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. One day when she was busking with singer-songwriter Doug Seegers, her future husband Greg Leisz, who was in Stockholm on tour with Jackson Browne, happened to walk by. Impressed and moved by the sounds Mai produced from her instrument, he informed Browne and his bassist Bob Glaub about the incredible bass player he had heard on the street. Browne then invited Seegers and Mai to sit in with his band the very next day at his concert at the Stockholm Waterfront.
Later that year, Greg Leisz played on Mai’s album “You,” which she recorded with her Swedish jazz-fusion band MaiGroup. The multi-instrumentalist gave a copy of “You” to David Crosby and just like Bob Glaub and Jackson Browne, the ex-Byrd’s ears pricked up at the sound of the young bassist’s impeccable musicianship. Crosby’s son and producer James Raymond then invited Mai to the last concert of Crosby, Stills, & Nash’s 2015 tour in Oslo, Norway, which also turned out to be the legendary trio’s final full concert before splitting up. While backstage, Mai met Crosby for the first time and it did not take long before she was going into the studio to lay down bass tracks for his solo album “Sky Trails.” She even co-wrote the album’s track “Here It’s Almost Sunset” with Crosby in 2016. The following year, “Sky Trails” was released and Mai hit the road with Crosby for the first time.
With her rendition of “Guinnevere,” Mai rearranged the CSN classic to make it far different from the subdued folk of the original recording, but still retaining the song’s recognizable hooks. She also played with its arrangement to make it distinct from other instrumental versions of the song.
Mai said, “I wanted to do something different from the original recording - open it up and reharmonize it a bit. I listened to Miles Davis’ version from the 70’s as well but I found my own way of telling the story of David Crosby’s “Guinnevere”. I really love the synergy the band gets in the studio. I wanted to capture the melancholy sound of the fretless bass and feature Mike Landau’s extraordinary guitar playing. I also wanted to bring in the original acoustic guitar part near the end of the song. Crosby taught it to Greg personally when we visited him.”
“Guinnevere” will be available to stream on February 12 on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, and other streaming services, which also include Mai Leisz’s earlier solo releases and albums she recorded with MaiGroup.
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