One of the hottest and most soulful saxophonists to be based in Massachusetts, Myanna plays music that mixes together jazz improvisation with funky rhythms, expressive playing and catchy tunes. Her music, whether it is an original or a cover tune, is colorful and infectious, and she is a consistent crowd pleaser.
Myanna was born in Monterey, growing up in a suburb of Boston. “Early on I heard classical music from my parents,” she remembers. “I played recorder when I was five. After that I studied violin for three years, had piano lessons for a time, and also guitar lessons for a few years.” She did not pick up a saxophone for the first time until she was 16 and a junior in high school. “I hung out with a group of people who were into jazz. I loved playing the saxophone from the start, and fell in love with it immediately. I was drawn to it. When I started playing the sax, I could tell right away that it was the right instrument for me.”
Myanna soon learned tenor, alto, soprano and baritone, all instruments that she has since mastered and plays regularly. She initially sat in with musicians at local blues clubs. Myanna attended Berklee for two semesters, and loved taking lessons from Joe Viola. At the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, the focus was on classical music, but the immortal drummer Max Roach was also one of the teachers and he led the jazz ensemble. “Just being around him and experiencing his aura was magical.”
After a year, Myanna began to work with Lilith and soon dropped out of college. She never needed to look back because she has been busy ever since. Performing with Lilith in a lot of different clubs in the Amherst and North Hampton area gave her experience playing rock and roll and r&b covers with a popular all-female group. She next worked with the Bill Bellamy Project for three years. In 1984 when Didi Stewart and Sandy Martin were putting together the band Girls’ Night Out, Myanna was one of the first people they called. The group, which lasted four years and was quite popular in the New England area, evolved from one that paid tribute to girl groups of the 1960s to an ensemble that featured originals by its musicians.
When she left Girls Night Out, Myanna started her own band, wrote a lot of songs, and put out her debut recording, the 1991 CD called Myanna. In 1994 she also began playing with the Love Dogs, an original blues-r&b-jump blues band led by the lead singer and featuring a three piece horn section. She has continued up to the present time playing with both her group and the Love Dogs.
Thus far, Myanna has recorded three CDs as a leader (Myanna, After Hours and One Never Knows, Do One), all for the Bridge City label. “With my band, we play a form of jazz, a soulful funky version with a lot of backbeat and funk with a focus on improvisation. My music has become more funky, bluesy, rootsy and spontaneous over time. I've also made four CDs with the Love Dogs. The latest one, which is a live recording, is a standout.”
These days Myanna continues playing regularly in clubs and concerts with both her own band, and with the Love Dogs, as well as guest appearances and freelance gigs. With her attractive and soulful sounds on her horns, her versatility, and her arranging and compositional skills, she remains in constant demand. In addition, she is writing songs for what will be her fourth CD as a leader.
“I'm thrilled to be doing what I'm doing,” she says. “I’m very fortunate to be able to work at something I’m passionate about. I plan to continue putting my music out there as long as I am able, and hope people continue to enjoy it. That would make me very happy.” As it would Myanna's large audience. She is one of Massachusetts' true musical treasures.