Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Duchess's Jazz Harmonies Shine on Self-Titled Album

Duchess is a New York based, all-women jazz vocal group featuring Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou, singing in the "close harmony" style associated with groups such as the Boswell Sisters who have released an eponymously titled recording on Anzic Records. The recording was produced by by Oded Lev-Ari, who helmed previous Anzic releases by Cervini and Stylianou. The trio are supported by a band led by drummer Matt Wilson with pianist Michael Cabe, and bassist Paul Sikivie. Also making their presence felt are saxophonist Jeff Lederer and guitarist Jesse Lewis.

The songs included range from a Peggy Lee number "I Love Being Here With You", Johnny Mercer's "P.S. I Love You" a playful Gershwin rarity with "Blah, Blah, Blah" and a direct Boswell Sisters homage with their arrangement of "Heebie Jeebies." The trio provide new twists on "Que Sera, Sera" and the standard "I'll Be Seeing You." Each gets a solo spot with "My Brooklyn Love Song" (Hilary), "A Doodlin' Song" (Amy) and "Humming to Myself" (Melissa). While occasionally they focus on the ballad side of the material, often the performances are flirty and playful with the backing band providing solid swing and saxophonist Lederer and guitarist Lewis adding marvelous solos.

Peggy Lee's "Love Being Here With You" opens with its bouncy perkiness, marvelous harmonies as they personalize the lyrics as they promise to swing this joint tonight before Lederer rips off a solo. They trade lead vocals and mix harmonies of "There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears," which sounds like an updating of a classic blues with sharp solos from Lewis and pianist Michael Cabe. Doris Day would approve the lovely rendition of "Que Sera, Sera," while Amy Cervini is perky with her colleagues adding to the perkiness of "A Doodlin' Song," with harmony backing and spoken asides with some tough tenor sax complimenting the light-hearted singing.

Wilson second line groove provides the primary backing for the lively reworking of the Chordettes hit "Lollipop," with a lively tenor sax-drum duo break in the middle. "It's a Man" with its lyrics warning women of a two-legged animal, sports some honking sax. The perky, lively harmonies of "Heebie Jeebies" closes a delightful and enchanting recording that may not be the deepest side of blues, but sure is full of serious fun.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in slightly different form in the November-December 2015 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 363). Here is Duchess performing "I Love Being Here With You."

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