WBGO Radar

Melissa Stylianou: No Regrets

singer melissa stylianou

No Regrets, says vocalist Melissa Stylianou, was recorded “the old fashioned way” – live in a single session. There’s another word to describe this approach, and the results captured on this album: timeless.

It helps when you start with the right ingredients – in this case, Bruce Barth on piano, Linda Oh on bass, Anat Cohen and Billy Drewes on reeds and Matt Wilson on drums, and the right repertoire.

Stylianou keeps her approach simple and focussed: songs are drawn from the 1930s and 1940s songbooks of Gershwin, Ellington, Harry Warren, Jimmy Van Heusen and the likes.

The band, too, concentrates on the fundamentals of small-group swing, with the eminent Matt Wilson at the reins.

There are a couple of outliers: “Down By The Salley Gardens” is a traditional Irish ballad adapted by poet William Butler Yeats in 1889, and adapted here by Stylianou and Wilson as an opportunity to stretch out in their interaction.

And Thelonious Monk and Coleman Hawkins’s 1947 “I Mean You” may be bebop, but Barth and Stylianou give it a swing feel, even as they add hints of modernism.

While the album’s honorary title track – Billie Holiday’s 1936 hit “No Regrets” – may not have made the final cut, but this session has a lot in common with the joy and enthusiasm of Holiday’s glorious small-group sessions from that era.

Who needs overdubs or second takes when you’ve got Goodman, Young, Wilson, Page and Jones in the room, or in Stylianou’s case, Cohen, Drewes, Barth, Oh and Wilson?

Not I.

Stylianou and friends will celebrate the release of No Regrets at New York’s Jazz Standard on Dec. 2, and at the Jazz Bistro in Toronto – her home city – on Nov. 21 and 22.

   - Tim Wilkins, WBGO digital content manager

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