Mar 2, 2015
While jazz instrumentalists see to often come together to create ‘supergroups” or play “supersessions”, jazz vocalists seem a bit reticent to do so. The reasons may range from ego issues to concerns of vocal compatibility to just plain lack of opportunity
Thankfully none of those problems exist for featuring notable New York singers Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou. I’ve enjoyed their individual releases on the Anzic label for years, and my enjoyment was tripled when I learned they were collaborating on a “supergroup” recording.
That debut album – and the name of their collaborative group –is Duchess, and successfully channels the 1930s inspiration of the virtuosic Boswell Sisters into a wonderfully entertaining and contemporary package. Produced by Oded Lev-Ari, who helmed previous acclaimed Anzic releases by Cervini and Stylianou, Duchess wisely matches the vocal trio with an ace New York band: pianist Michael Cabe, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Matt Wilson, plus saxophonist Jeff Lederer and guitarist Jesse Lewis.
The songs of Duchess range from the well-known Peggy Lee number "I Love Being Here With You" and Johnny Mercer's "P.S. I Love You" to new twists on "Que Sera, Sera" and the indelible standard "I'll Be Seeing You." There's a playful Gershwin rarity with "Blah, Blah, Blah" and a direct Boswell Sisters homage with their arrangement of "Heebie Jeebies." And fans of the ladies’ individual work are not deprived of their talents - there are solo spots for each with "My Brooklyn Love Song" (Hilary), "A Doodlin' Song" (Amy) and "Humming to Myself" (Melissa).
It was a pleasure to speak with the three ladies of Duchess recently, and Podcast 467 is my conversation with them, supplemented with musical tracks from the Duchess CD, as well as individual tracks like Melissa Stylianou’s take on “Nice Work If You Can Get It” from her CD No Regrets, and Amy Cervini’s take on Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”from Jazz Country, which feature Marty Ehrlich on saxophone. I’ve also thrown in a Boswell sisters classic for good measure - their 1934 song "Rock and Roll" as featured in the film Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round , an early use of the phrase “rock and roll”, even though here it refers to "the rolling rocking rhythm of the sea".