Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Duchess Laughing at Life

Laughing at Life
Anzic Records

Duchess, the flirty and fun jazz vocal trio of Amy Cervini, Hillary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou, have a second recording that provides a contemporary take on such classic vocal trios as the Boswell Sisters and the Andrews Sisters as they provide fresh and delightful takes on mostly classics of early jazz, and the American Songbook. They are backed by pianist Michael Cabe, bassist Matt Aronoff, and drummer Jared Schonig with guitarist Jesse Lewis appearing ion 9 of the 14 selections and tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer on four. Additionally Wycliffe Gordon adds trombone to two selections and Anat Cohen adds clarinet to two. The trio share vocals on eleven tracks while each is featured on one.

The trio opens with a delightful take on Clarence Williams' "Swing Brother Swing" which is handled a bit more sweetly than Catherine Russell's recent recording of this number. Lederer rips off some ferocious tenor sax on it. "On The Sunny Side of the Street" is a pretty familiar standard and their backing trio adds fresh accents to the harmonies and vocal interplay with Cabe taking a lively solo. The title track is a sprite number new to these ears followed by a lively rendition of the classic "Everybody Loves My Baby" with Anat Cohen's adds fills around the vocals that include some double time singing and scatting before she takes a wonderful solo. This is a marvelous performance followed by a lazy, wistful "Stars Fell on Alabama," with Wycliffe Gordon adding some growling and crying trombone.

Amy Cervini sings Cole Porter's amusing "Give Him the Oo La La" with Gardner and Stylianou adding their backing while Stylianou takes lead on, "Where Would You Be Without Me," from a sixties Broadway show and Lewis takes a guitar solo here. Gordon joins again on Ellington's "Creole Love Call," on which Duchess sings lyrics in addition to wordless vocalizing. Gordon conjures up Bubber Miley and Tricky Sam Nanton with his growling mute as well as adds his own vocalizing and scatting to that of Duchess on a marvelous take on Ellingtonia. Gardner is up front on a nice take on the Ray Charles classic, "Hallelujah I Love Her (Him) So," and then the trio provides a ruminative take on Porter's "Er'ry Time We Say Goodbye." Johnny Mercer's "Strip Polka" is far from reflective with its zany lyric of a burlesque queen who strips as the band plays a polka while she is always a lady who stops just in time with Lederer's tenor sax providing the right atmosphere.

After a bouncy "Here's to the Losers," Cohen adds some warm clarinet to a lovely "We'll Meet Again" before a bonus track, "Dawn" which sounds like a lullaby. It is an enchanting finish to another delightful recording from Duchess.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2017  Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 371) but I have made a few corrections and minor changes. Here Duchess sings "Everybody Loves My Baby."

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