NEIL MAYA – guest leader, professional musician, band leader, composer, arranger
Not a lot of people know this (well they do now…) but Neil Maya began his musical career aged three singing his way through a book of nursery rhymes. He followed this up by learning the recorder a year later. Piano lessons began at five and the clarinet at eight.
The love affair with jazz was already ingrained as Neil’s Dad is a massive big band fan. Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing rang out around the family home in Dunstable (Neil was born in Luton) and the young Maya couldn’t believe anyone could construct such an amazing solo on the spur of the moment. He still can’t!
Not surprisingly , Neil’s early ambition was to become a professional clarinetist and by the age of eleven, he was showing such promise that he attended lessons at the Royal College of Music every Saturday and played in the Bedfordshire Youth Orchestra.
On leaving school, Neil gained a degree Civil Engineering at Loughborough University but after a ghastly student placement working on a building site for a refuse burning power station, he completed his degree, promptly recycled his notes and vowed never to do another structural calculation ever again. Civil engineering’s loss was music’s gain.
By now Neil was a serious saxophonist and with music firmly back on the front burner, he’s never looked back, teaching, composing, arranging. His various bands are in constant demand at jazz venues, festivals and private functions.
Recent highlights have included the Brubeck Project, featuring pianist Matt Carter. The CD/DVD is highly recommended.
His musical heroes are many, but sax player Michael Brecker is probably top of the list. Best jazz performance he’s ever attended was Irakare at Ronnie Scott’s and his most played jazz album (currently) is Snarky Puppy’s We Like It Here.
Neil’s dream jazz line-up would include either Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea or Bill Evans on keys and probably Esperanza Spalding on bass. But all in all, he’d rather work with his own quartet, either Tom Unwin or Matt Carter on keys, Kev Sanders on bass and Nick Carter on drums (with Gary Evans when Nick isn’t available).
If he had his time over again, learning the bass and trombone would be top of the list.
Meanwhile in the Maya household, the joint is always jumpin’. Neil and Sally’s two boys are following in their musical footsteps. Aric is lead trumpet in the South Devon Big Band meanwhile Ethan is showing great promise as a violinist. But both boys’ main passion lies in sailing.