Canadian born and New York based vocalist Melissa Stylianou has a new recording (her 5th album) on Anzic Records “No Regrets.” Produced by Oded Lev-Ari, Stylianou is backed by a trio of Bruce Barth on piano, Linda Oh on bass and Matt Wilson on drums with appearances by Billy Drewes on alto saxophone on two songs and Anat Cohen on clarinet on two songs. The album was recorded live to two-track on an album that mostly sticks to jazz standards.
There is plenty to delight in Melissa Stylianou’s singing and here she is backed by a superb trio augmented by sax or clarinet at times. Her rendition of the Gershwins’ “Nice Work If You Can Get It” features an introduction that this writer was not familiar with. After her delivery of the lyric, each member of the trio takes a brief break and there is a couple of brief exchanges between her and Wilson. Not all of theses selections are as well known such as “Remind Me” by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields with her perky delivery of the amusing word play here (“Remind me not to mention that I love you, Remind me I am sorry that we are met) with Barth supplying the arrangement.
Drewes’ alto opens a marvelous rendition of the Ellington-Webster lament “"I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)" ,” and Melissa is playful on “Humming to Myself.” Linda Oh’s bass opens “I Wish I Knew” and duets with Melissa until mid-way through the first verse. A Billie Holiday song, “Somebody’s On My Mind” is one of the selections with Cohen with just Oh’s bass providing apt support for Stylianou’s languid vocal. Known for her adaptations of songs by Bjork, Johnny Cash and Tom Waits among others, her one unusual selection is a folky adaptation of William Butler Yeats’ poem “Down by the Salley Gardens” accompanied just by Wilson.
Her lovely voice, phrasing and dynamics are factors that enchant the listener. Gutbucket alto sax against the firm backing of the rhythm section spices up "A Nightingale Can Sing the Blues.” Cohen returns with more lovely playing on “"I'll Never Be the Same.” There is a lilting quality to the rendition “Polka Dots And Moonbeams” (with a choice Barth solo), before the album concludes with a bright, delightful rendition, backed just by piano, of Jon Hendricks’ lyrics to Monk’s “I Mean You,” with her scatting and trading fours with Barth.
Melissa Stylianou touches the heart and brightens our spirits throughout “No Regrets.” It is a recording with plenty to charm listeners.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2015 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 360) although a few revisions and corrections have been made.Here she sings "I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good."