I don’t know what is in the sweet tea in North Carolina, but much like fellow NC natives Anthony Hamilton, Fantasia and the Hailey Brothers (a.k.a. K-Ci and JoJo), Mavis “Swan” Poole has a command of her vocal instrument that’s both gospel horsepowered and jazz diva-like. Her notes are clean and precise, and when she opens up on a multisyllabic run, you can hear the influence of the mighty Clark Sisters’ quartet swang in Mavis’s own virtuosity.

To put it mildly, when Mavis sings, she sangs. Just as she did when belting out “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the groundbreaking of Brooklyn ’hood-changing Barclays Center, Mavis sang her face off and basketball fans jumped straight to their feet to applaud that big voice of hers. Mavis was an avid choir kid back in the day, performing in a youth ensemble that backed high-profile gospel stars like televangelist Bobby Jones and the first lady of American gospel, Dame Shirley Caesar. She’s also sung backup for an impressive line-up of artists, including Miss Lauryn Hill during her 2010 Moving Target tour.

A recipient of numerous independent music awards, Mavis has an extensive music education background, including a Master’s in jazz and a current stint teaching kindergarten. But this singer is hardly the bookish type. She delivers thoroughly contemporary rhythm and blues that grooves somewhere between Erykah Badu’s bold sassiness and Jill Scott’s coy sensuality.

Her 2009 album, Soul Tree (Sultry), offered soul lovers a full menu of funkafied goodness, with splashes of hip-hop and heavy dollops of jazz, gospel and reggae all seasoned to tastiness. With her band, Soul Understated—a badass seven-piece outfit co-led by collaborator Jeremy “Bean” Clemmons—Mavis is set to release On the Shoulders of Giants this spring. The project will include the single “Same Ole Groove,” and feature a few of Mavis’s many famous jazz peers, including Mark Whitfield, Marc Cary and Gil-Scott Heron’s former creative partner, Brian Jackson. — Sun Singleton

Listen to Mavis “Swan” Poole at her Reverbnation page and check out Mavis’s website, SwanVocals.com, for upcoming live performances and the promise of down-home, feel-good soul music. Follow her onTwitter @swanvocals.

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