Maia Santell is what one might call an entertainer’s entertainer. Onstage, she is dynamic and full of musical joy for her appreciative audience. Offstage she is sweet as pie, with friendly warmth that carries directly into her music. Her voice is naturally powerful and brings to mind the greats like Bonnie Raitt - full of confidence and sass.
For more than two decades Santell and her backing band House Blend have been performing around the Pacific Northwest at nightclubs, casinos, festivals, dances, cruises, special events, weddings and wedding receptions. They often play at Studio 6 Ballroom in Tacoma, where the atmosphere sparkles with couples dancing and the enchanting Santell singing her heart out with her pals in House Blend providing guitar, bass, saxophone and drums. Maia Santell and House Blend performs jazz, blues, swing, big band, jump blues and rhythm and blues, and for dances the band rocks with popular music from the 1950s through the 1990s.
Maia and the boys’ new CD recorded live at Jazzbones gives fans old and new a satisfying menu of songs to listen at home or in the car. With 11 tracks of swing, blues and jazz, this CD proves that Santell is the real deal when it comes to music. “Dance with Me!” offers many songs from American music history as told through tunes written and performed by some of the greatest musicians of yesteryear.
The CD jumps right into the blues with “Born Under a Bad Sign,” first recorded in 1967 by American blues guitarist and singer Albert King. Santell’s voice has a tellin’-it-like-it-is swagger, and an extended guitar solo sounds inspired.
“Alright, Okay, You Win” is a fantastic swing number. First recorded by Count Basie with Joe Williams, and later sung by Peggy Lee and Bette Midler, among others, Santell certainly does the song justice, and the men in her backing band chime in with vocals too in a Big Band kind of style.
Fans of Santana will recognize “Oye Como Va” written by Latin jazz icon Tito Puente. It moves into “Relax Max” made popular by Dinah Washington, who would be proud of Santell’s treatment of the song.
“Sleepwalk/Georgia On My Mind” are familiar tunes. “Sleepwalk” is all instrumental and very romantic for close dancing or gazing into your lover’s dreamy eyes. Then Santell sings “Georgia On My Mind” like it was meant to be sung, and smooth sax compliments the arrangement quite nicely.
“The Bo Hawg Grind” is pure Mississippi blues, and refers to what a woman can do to keep her man in line (i.e. one assumes that means satisfied in bed). Santell is swanky and the guitar sound roughed up, down and dirty.
Maia Santell and House Blend have several gigs coming up at Johnny’s Dock (1900 E. ‘D’ St.) where copies of “Dance with Me” will be for sale, including New Year’s Eve beginning at 8:30 p.m. Johnny’s also hosts the band Dec. 26, 6-9 p.m.; Dec. 27, 5-8 p.m.; and Dec. 30, 6-9 p.m., no cover/all ages.