Musique Noire
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Musique Noire

Detroit, Michigan, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2005 | SELF | AFM

Detroit, Michigan, United States | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2005
Band World Jazz




"Review of "Reflections: We Breathe""

"The cultural melting pot of Detroit has produced remarkable jazz artists who incorporate diverse ethnic sounds into their music. Led by violinist and flutist Michelle May, Motor City quartet Musique Noire weave elements of Spain, Africa, India and the Middle East into their sonic tapestry. But jazz and blues provide the bedrock on which they build, as they and their guests draw connections between America's grand music and its antecedents and analogs on 'Reflections: We Breathe' (Ann Vincent Productions), their latest recording. That the group comprises all women lends a powerful point of view, particularly on a potent interpretation of Nina Simone's 'Four Women' , the vocal parts shared among the group. Written by JoVia Armstrong, the instrumental "Reflections", included here, begins with the gentle strum of the acoustic guitar and the plaintive sound of the viola before the tune takes a turn for the celebratory. Marion Haden's (sic) liquid bass lines and Armstrong's lively percussion add danceable rhythms, and soon, violist Leslie Deshazor and guitarist Elden Kelly are lifting their feet and dancing along on their respective instruments." - Jazziz Magazine

"Excerpt of Liner Notes from "Reflections: We Breathe""

"Michelle Ann May, a talented and creative violinist and flutist, emerged from this world of multi-ethnic Detroit sounds. . .she is here, with an assemblage of some of the finest musicians in the city; women with several collective lifetimes of musical experience, all versed in the international sounds of this sprawling metropolis. . .Musique Noire is an exuberant, jazzy ensemble. . .experience this magical, sophisticated chamber performance and be transported to many other lands via soulful, global Detroit." - Marsha Music (

"Musique Noire's "We Breathe""

Musique Noire open their latest album with a vibrant interpretation of Nina Simone's "Four Women," springing forth from the indefatigable spirit of its lyrics and suturing a sureness and empowerment from its outset, a theme and an energy that will continue throughout. Mesmerizing vocals and sinewy/smooth strings set the stage for what will be a venturous and stylized album that celebrates women warriors, while combining vibes, rhythms and signature phrasings from all over the world.

The ribbon-like kite gust of "Ibelec's" primary melody is indelible and carries you away. The Spanish guitar flourishes of "Whiskey & Sangria" are transportive and given extra evocation by the taut expressiveness of the strings. "Reflections" slows the tempo and all but takes it away for a nocturne of quiet contemplation until it can't help but burst just past it's 1-minute mark with ebullient symbols and a minimalist guitar giving nice augmented radiance to the impassioned strings. The bass can shine on the groove-centric "We Breathe," which closes things out with a poignant spoken-word performance by violinist Michelle May. "If you look in our eyes, you see our wisdom / our survival / our trials.... Our triumphs."

The groups core, May on violin, Leslie DeShazor Adams on viola, Leah Lucas Celebi on viola/violin and JoVia Armstrong on percussion, are featured throughout the album, along with several guests like Marion Hayden on bass and Elden Kelly on guitar. Each member takes on production roles with different tracks and is each trade off as lead arranger from piece to piece.

It's an inspirational listening experience. . . - Jeff Milo - Deep Cutz Music

"Dusty Groove America Reviews "Good Hair""

"A very cool little project -- an instrumental set that's heavy on string-based instruments -- kind of an electrified string quartet, and one with a pretty funky feel at times too! Group members mix together violin, viola, and percussion with a bit of guitars and bass -- using the instruments playfully, and in a variety of settings that almost recall some of the instrumental revolutions of the 80s -- kind of a space between Kronos Quartet and some of the more creative combos of the New York scene. There's just a bit of vocals on the record, but the main focus is instrumental -- and the rhythms bring in a lot of world echoes, creating a cross-cultural vibe at times." -

"A New World of Jazz"

A woman-led band transforms instruments typical of classical music into tools for creating jazz sounds from around the globe. String and percussion quintet Musique Noire covers many miles of musical territory--from Latin to Moroccan, from funk to The Beatles. The group's debut disc, "Good Hair" dishes up diverse dialects all spoken through the language of jazz. . .Violin and viola create a stark contrast to the funk bass that opens the song 'Heretic'. Percussion soars on the Morroccan flavored 'Shrug' and the Afro-Latin opener 'Uncle Check's Cha Cha Cha'. A bouncing rendition of The Beatles' 'Eleanor Rigby' is downright danceable.

(The) ensemble Musique Noire, fuses world music and jazz, resulting in a style that is at once classical and cutting edge. The unconventional combination of violin, viola and percussion lends an exotic air to the group's arrangements of jazz standards and original compositions. - J. Nadir Omowale - African American Family Magazine

"Review of CD "Good Hair""

"Good Hair" is gorgeous. The music is fresh, melodic, soulful, full of life with a bit of an edge. Congratulations.
- Linda Yohn, Music Director, WEMU 89.1

"Review of "Good Hair" in Audiophile Audition"

"The instrumentation may seem a bit unusual, but the clever arrangements bring it all together in an exciting and tuneful fashion. Some of the string quartet/crossover albums have not quite gotten it in the groove, but Musique Noir (sic) is swinging." - John Henry

"Review of CD "Good Hair""

The group Musique Noire, which recorded its debut album Good Hair (2008) around the Livonia area, is made up of Michelle May, Leslie Deshazor Adams, Leah Lucas, Jovia Armstrong, and Mark Sawasky. Unlike Orpheum Bell, which maintained a clear style throughout each track, Musique Noire seems to change styles with every song. That made for a very enjoyable listen as the group took me around the musical world in style and structure.

Opening with "Uncle Check's Cha-Cha," the group moves through two original compositions, one sounding very eastern European, before taking a turn at Chick Corea's "La Fiesta." It's probably a safe bet to say that was not written for violin, but it sounds like it could have been. At times reminiscent of Jean-Luc Ponty, there are other offerings that certainly are enough to make this gypsy weep. Other original works are wrapped around a jazzy version of "Eleanor Rigby," before culminating in the title track. They may call it "Good Hair," but the 10 tracks on this CD add up to what I call "excellent album."

Musique Noire is a classy group that can move in any musical direction with ease and grace. Mostly instrumental, Good Hair is one of those rare recordings that can be listened to closely with headphones or put on for an ambient background effect. I will be doing both because it is a recording that I found extremely enjoyable.

- Peter Karoly,

""Regina Carter's 'Reverse Thread' Soars" (Musique Noire mention)"

"When Carter arrived in New York, jazz violinists were few and far between . . . Now Carter can look at a musical landscape that includes Daniel Bernard Roumain, whose classical, jazz and pop projects have pushed the violin's role even further from string quartet territory; Jenny Scheinman who has deftly merged the violin's country tradition with a fierce appetite for jazz experimentation; the members of Musique Noire, who are showing how well strings and percussion can work as the core of a band and many, many, others." - Martin Johnson,

"Review of CD "Good Hair""

Kudos to violinist/bandleader/producer/arranger Michelle May and the entire team of Musique Noire for a job well done!

At the very first notes one gets the sense of hypnotic intoxication and while the music pours out seemingly so easy there'll be no denying the plentiful passion, sexy sizzle and rhythmic vibes to be had through the awesome team work of Musique Noire...the debut release of Musique Noire's - "Good Hair" is musical food for the soul.

Maxine Michaels
Detroit Radio Broadcaster - Maxine Michaels, Detroit Radio Personality

"2010 "Great Performances in a Sacred Space""

On behalf of the Performing Arts Committee I express our gratitude to Musique Noire for an absolutely exceptional afternoon of music. The outstanding musicianship of each and every one of you was a privilege to experience and it was a pleasure to have you as part of our 2009-2010 performance series. ~Dr. Lawrence Gage
- First Presbyterian Church of Farmington Hills, MI

"2009 Flint Jazz Festival"

What a wonderful sound your band has! How accepting the audience was in hearing new instrumentation and Jazz. Thanks so much for participating in our 28th Annual Flint Jazz Festival. We greatly appreciated you and your band coming and gracing us with your sound. - Cathy Johnson, Program Director


"Good Hair" released independently in October 2008, nominated for "Outstanding Jazz Recording" at the 2009 Detroit Music Awards and received airplay at over 50 college and NPR stations nationally. "Holiday Dreams: A Celebration of Christmas" released in 2011.  Newest release, "Reflections:  We Breathe" released 2017, receiving airplay at over 60 college and NPR stations nationally.  Latest release slated for 2022: *in*ter*gen*er*a*tion*al



Musique Noire was nominated in 2018 by the Detroit Music Awards as "Outstanding World Artist/Group" and "Outstanding World Recording". The ensemble also received the same nominations in 2011, 2010 and 2009.  Musique Noire was also awarded "Best Black Female Band of the Year" at the 2015 Black Women in Jazz and the Arts Awards in Atlanta, GA.  The ensemble were 2018 TEDx performers.

Musique Noire's four main members are working musicians and passionate music educators.

Michelle May (Detroit, MI) has been a performer, educator, writer and producer for over 35 years. She is a 2018 Kresge Artist Fellow (Detroit, MI).  She has performed live and in studio with such nationally renowned performers as drummer/percussionist Francisco Mora Catlett, Aretha Franklin, KEM, Donnie McClurkin, Fred Hammond, Richard Smallwood, Marcus Belgrave, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole, and the late greats Donald Walden, Barry White, Joe Williams and Dizzy Gillespie, among many others. Michelle holds a B.A. in Education and Music, an M.A. in Counseling (her "other" profession!) and a Certificate in Recording Technology.

Jovia Armstrong (Los Angeles, CA), educator and songwriter, is one of the most sought-after performers in the in the West and Midwest. She is a 2011 3Arts Siragusa Foundation (Chicago, IL) Artist awardee. Jovia studied percussion at Michigan State University before relocating to Chicago where she earned a B.A. in Music Business from Columbia College. In addition to her work as performer, writer and producer with Musique Noire, Jovia has performed with such national and international artists as El Debarge, Amp Fiddler, Nicole Mitchell, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, the Chris Green Quartet, British artist Omar, Alison Crockett, Maysa, Eric Robeson, Rashaan Patterson, Frank McComb, Trey Anastacio, Brian O'Neal (keyboardist for Kem) as well as numerous Jazz and Latin festivals. She is known for her creative technique, stage presence and melodic approach and is versed in the styles of jazz, Latin jazz, Afro-Cuban, African, gospel and R&B. JoVia is currently a PhD student in the University of California Irvine's Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology Program.  She has released two projects:  "Fuzzy Blue Robe Chronicles" and the critically acclaimed "The Antidote Suite".

Leslie DeShazor (Detroit, MI) :  Named one of thirty Professional Movers and Shakers in the Performing Arts by Musical America in 2019 violist/violinist Leslie DeShazor is in demand as a soloist, teacher, and recording artist.  Though classically trained, Mrs. DeShazor is a talented and diverse musician.  As a soloist, she has performed with the Toledo Symphony.  She is a freelance artist who performs and has performed with The Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra, Michigan Sinfonietta, CutTime Simfonica, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Flint Symphony, The River Raisin Ragtime Revue, and Ann Arbor Symphony as well as jazz ensembles, Leigh Daniels Ensemble the Detroit-based, Musique Noire and Straight Ahead.  She has performed and recorded with international, Grammy award-winning R&B stars, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Kem, Aretha Franklin, Grammy award-winning gospel artists Fred Hammond, Michael W. Smith, and Donnie McClurkin.  She has also had the pleasure of performing with jazz greats such as Roy Hargrove, Steve Wilson, Sheila Jordan, Diane Schuur, Regina Carter, Xavier Davis, and Marcus Belgrave.An experienced instructor, she currently teaches students of Detroit with instructional music programs offered through the Detroit Symphony Orchestra,  the Sphinx Organization, and her own private studio.  A native of Michigan, Mrs. DeShazor holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.  Leslie released her solo debut album, "Journey With Me" in the Fall of 2021.

Leah Lucas (Detroit, MI) has been described by critics as a player that “possesses a major talent as well as a sunny, room-filling personality” (The Santa Barbara Independent). In addition to her work with Musique Noire, Leah performs as a soloist, an orchestral musician, and a performer of contemporary music in a variety of genres, including premiering a work written for her by composer Timothy Beutler entitled Pursuit of Truth: For Solo Viola and Tape. She also served as violinist and vocalist in Danssair, a popular Irish band local to Santa Barbara. Originally from Illinois, Ms. Lucas graduated from the Chicago College of Performing Arts Music Conservatory and continued her graduate studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. She has performed with numerous national and international artists. Leah is currently the Vice President of Community Engagement and Programming at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial (Grosse Pointe Farms, MI)

Band Members