michael mayo is leaning against a wall looking towards the camera

Michael Mayo performed live for UNR’s Performing Arts Series on April 22. Photo/Lauren Desberg/Ricky Chavez

In honor of Jazz Appreciation Month and Reno Jazz Fest, Jazz musician Michael Mayo closed out UNR’s Performing Arts Series for this year.  

Mayo descends from two very successful musicians who’ve worked with big names like Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and more. 

Mayo grew up in Los Angeles, CA and gravitated towards sounds in R&B and Jazz music. 

Mayo graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor’s degree. Afterwards, he attended Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. 

After working with many talented mentors and moving to New York, Mayo has had his own streak of success. Singing at the White House and the Kennedy Center are only a few of his accomplishments.

Mayo performed live from his home in New York on the evening of April 22, and his performance was accompanied by a menu from Liberty Food and Wine Exchange. While watching from home, audiences could enjoy a favorite soul food dish of Mayo’s, Liberty Mac n’ Cheese and Sweet Potato Pie

With no prerecorded video to accompany the performance, Mayo was able to truly showcase his musical skills. Using original bass tracks, his personalized looping technique, and other vocal inflections. The show was an adventurous way to end the Performing Arts Series. 

Mayo started with original composition called “Who Knows,” using loops of his own vocals to make the bass track. If you’re unfamiliar with “looping,” it’s a fun and energetic way to create your own music by repeating the same section of sound over and over again. Mayo also used finger snaps, and other vocals making the piece surreal and peaceful. 

Mayo ‘s second song was built similarity to the first, as he recorded a variety of deep vocals to create a bass for the song. It sounded like a one man A capella group, livening up the show. 

Unfortunately, the live stream experienced many technical difficulties throughout the performance, but the richness of Mayo’s performance filled the living-rooms of the UNR community.  

The highlight of Mayo’s performance was showing the audience what it’s like inside the creation process for an artist. Mayo produced tracks live, playing around with vocals and sounds in an A capella style. His tracks contained elements from Jazz, to R&B, to Soul and Gospel music. The audience could really step into the studio with Mayo, partaking in a very intimate experience of making music. 

Mayo also performed Billie Holiday’s “God Bless A Child” in which he described how the song was important to him.  

“I love that song,” Mayo said. “Every single musician has a list of songs that they’ve been meaning to learn…and this for the longest time was one of those songs for me.” 

Mayo then jumped into Miles Davis’ “Darn That Dream,” playing it dreamfully and romantically. 

The last arrangement played by Mayo was a song he’s been working on, which sounded very different than the rest of the set. This piece had a techno sound, and he called it “Just Friends.” While there were many layers to “Just Friends,” Jazz was very prominent in the piece. 

The evening ended with the final question and answer portion that accompanies every performance, which concluded the Performing Arts Series for the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Mayo is dropping a new album in June 2021, and his April 22 performance is on demand until May 6. 

Emilie Rodriguez can be reached at emilier@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @emilieemeree.