Given Canadian-in-New-York Melissa Stylianou’s recording trajectory—four previous albums of steadily increasing authority and ingenuity—it’s hardly surprising that No Regrets is so extraordinarily good. Gone are Stylianou’s usual accompanists, replaced by an all-star trio of pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Matt Wilson. Two equally stellar players—alto saxophonist Billy Drewes and clarinetist Anat Cohen (also featured on Stylianou’s prior release, 2012’s Silent Movie)—each guest on two tracks.
Everything is intentionally old-school. The standards-heavy track list combines sturdy chestnuts—the Gershwins’ “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Ellington’s “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good)”—with less-familiar gems like Dick Charles and Larry Marks’ “A Nightingale Can Sing the Blues” and Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr.’s “Somebody’s on My Mind.” The actual recordings, masterminded by Oded Lev-Ari, were done live to two-track in one marathon session that lasted from midday ’til the wee hours: no edits, overdubs or technologic chicanery.
The mood is soft and easy, Stylianou and company settling into a smoky, half-past-midnight coziness. Her readings are invariably cunning, with all five bandmates crafting integrally thoughtful abetment: the gently propulsive bassline Oh floats beneath “I Wish I Knew,” the subdued wistfulness of Cohen’s clarinet on “I’ll Never Be the Same,” the fairytale lilt of Barth and Wilson’s interplay on “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” the fluttering yearn of Drewes’ sax on “I Got It Bad.” Smart. Seamless. Stunning.Christopher LoudonJazzTimes Magazine
No Regrets (Anzic)
Released late last month, No Regrets marks a striking shift in approach, if not exactly in direction, for vocalist Melissa Stylianou.
The Brooklyn-based Canadian expat’s previous disc, Silent Movie, was a lush studio outing with a contemporary sonic profile and repertoire. No Regrets is more old school, having been recorded live off the floor to two-track and featuring a more obvious grounding in both jazz standards and swinging.
On both recordings, Stylianou’s honeyed voice and nuanced, versatile delivery shine. Joined by the elite rhythm section of Bruce Barth at the piano, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Matt Wilson (and his magic ride cymbal), Stylianou takes grand tours of such songs as Nice Work If You Can Get It, I Wish I Knew and a waltzing Polka Dots and Moonbeams. The ballads I Got It Bad and especially I’ll Never Be The Same are exceptionally rendered, with Stylianou and company absolutely flourishing and lucid at slow, yet swinging, tempos.
On I’ll Never Be The Same, and the Somebody’s On My Mind, clarinetist Anat Cohen guests, bringing colour, mood and melody to the table. On I Got It Bad, alto saxophonist Billy Drewes adds complexity and even a bit of raspiness to the proceedings.
Another slow, testing track, A Nightingale Can Sing The Blues, finds Stylianou, for all the forthright prettiness of her voice, living up to the tune’s title. Humming To Myself is a striding novelty, and Remind Me is a classy straight-eighths ballad.
Down By The Salley Gardens is the disc’s outlier, a duet featuring Stylianou singing the William Butler Yeats poem accompanied only by Wilson. Closing the disc is another duet — I Mean You, a team-up for Stylianou and Barth’s jaunty, urbane piano.
From start to finish, this disc is gorgeous, sparkling and spontaneous, as you will likely agree if you give it an audition.Peter HumOttawa Citizen JazzBlog
Melissa Stylianou: No Regrets.
Recorded live to two-track, No Regrets casts a spell that carries through from the jauntily swinging opener (Gershwin’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It”) to the bouncing closer (Monk’s “I Mean You”). Accompanied by the New York all-star core trio of drummer Matt Wilson, bassist Linda Oh, and pianist Bruce Barth, Stylianou sings each word with an understated clarity and style that harken back to classy vocalists like Peggy Lee, Chris Connor, and Ella Fitzgerald. Stylianou demonstrates uncanny interpretive powers on the melancholy “I’ll Never Be the Same,” Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields’ giddy “Remind Me,” and Duke Ellington’s beguiling “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good).” She benefits greatly from Wilson’s endlessly clever, interactive, and joyful contributions on the kit, not to mention their stark, stirring duet on the traditional Irish folk tune “Down by the Salley Gardens.” Oh provides solidly swinging bass lines throughout while Barth’s eminently hip comping and sophisticated chord voicings (as on “I’ll Never Be the Same” and their delightful jazz waltz take on “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”) help elevate the proceedings. Guest clarinetist Anat Cohen adds suitably dark tones on a sparse arrangement of the Billie Holiday lament “Somebody’s On My Mind.” BMThe Absolute Sound
No Regrets (Anzic – 0046) finds vocalist MELISSA STYLIANOU in the company of pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Matt Wilson for wonderful visits to eleven terrific songs. Most of the tunes are from the world of pop standards, with the notable exceptions being the Irish folk song “Down by the Salley Gardens,” where she is backed solely by the imaginative drumming of Wilson; and the Monk tune “I Mean You” with lyrics by Jon Hendricks. Special note must be made of Stylianou’s superb reading of the rarely heard “A Nightingale Can Sing the Blues,” a tune most associated with Peggy Lee. Stylianou is a stylish singer with a deep jazz feeling to her vocalizing. Her phrasing is spot on, and she is a friend to the lyrics. There are occasional contributions from Anat Cohen on clarinet and Billy Drewes on alto sax. This is among the best vocal albums to arrive this year. Invest in a copy of No Regrets, and you will find that the title accurately the way that you will feel.Joe LangJersey Jazz
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?
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 WilkinsWBGO.org Radar
With "No Regrets" Melissa Stylianou has done what few singers are able to do: make classic songs sound like they're her own tunes. These arrangements give her the solid ground she needs to boldly and refreshingly interpret these songs. And what an inspired decision to bring in recording engineer James Farber and record straight to 2-track! There's no shortage of jazz singers out there, but a release like this shows Melissa pulling away from the crowd and lets us know that the future of jazz, and these songs, are in very good hands.Joel Hurd, North Country Public Radio
MELISSA STYLIANOU: “NO REGRETS” (Anzic 46)
When multi-track tape recorders were introduced in the late 1960s, studio recording became an entirely different experience. Each member of the rhythm section laid down their tracks separately, followed by the horn sections. Finally, the vocalist would go into an empty studio, enter an isolation booth, don a pair of headphones and dub the vocal over the other tracks. Many classic period vocalists had a very difficult time making the adjustment, rightly complaining that there was no way to interact with the band. In an age where LPs are making a resurgence, it’s not altogether surprising to find more musicians embracing the traditional style of recording. Melissa Stylianou’s latest CD, “No Regrets” was recorded direct to 2-track tape in an extended one-day session. In her liner notes, Stylianou admits that it’s different than the way she’s recorded in the past, but that with a familiar repertoire and a stellar backup band, it was worth the risks. From the rubato verse of the Gershwin’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It”, we can hear the benefits: Stylianou, pianist Bruce Barth and drummer Matt Wilson have the freedom to stretch phrases as they wish, and when bassist Linda Oh joins in, the rhythm section locks in the time behind Stylianou. Virtually every song in this set was written before Stylianou was born, but the way she wraps her warm voice around standards like “Remind Me”, “I’ll Never Be the Same” and “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” reveals the great love she has for these classic songs. Unlike the other singers in this survey, Stylianou is not a dramatic singer; she makes her points through understatement. However, her melodic variations is just as remarkable (her second chorus on “I Wish I Knew” is particularly accomplished), and her light scat on “Humming to Myself” is delightful. The album sequencing is quite impressive, with more familiar standards as the bookends, surrounding the less known (but equally worthy) songs in the middle. At the center point of the album, there are two fine pieces which use smaller contingents from the group: Billie Holiday’s “Someone’s on my Mind” (a trio with Stylianou, Oh and guest clarinetist Anat Cohen), and a folk setting of “Sally Gardens” with Wilson offering sole support. The album closes with a sprightly duet with Barth on “I Mean You”. This album is easily Stylianou’s best to date, and she should consider further recordings using the same recording method with these outstanding accompanists and this timeless repertoire.Thomas Cunniffewww.jazzhistoryonline.com
No Regrets (Anzic)
As New York singer Melissa Stylianou makes clear in the opening tune of her new standards-heavy release, recording these songs is Nice Work If You Can Get It.
The Canadian expat and her core band of pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Matt Wilson capture the essence of small-group swing on 11 tracks ranging from Nice Work to Monk's I Mean You. Alto saxophonist Billy Drewes and clarinetist Anat Cohen enhance two tracks each.
The ballad I Got It Bad swings at an oh so slow tempo; Somebody's On My Mind is a delight with Stylianou and Cohen's moody delivery; and Cohen's wistful clarinet enriches I'll Never Be the Same. Down by the Salley Gardens, a W.B. Yeats poem done as a duet by Stylianou and Wilson, is a nice surprise among the standards.
I Mean You isn't exactly American Songbook material, but Stylianou and Barth turn the boppish Monk tune into a swinging vocal treat. ****
DOWNLOAD THIS: Somebody's On My Mind
-- Chris SmithChris SmithWinnipeg Free Press January 2015
singer-songwriter Melissa Stylianou has achieved a major chord. . . . with Silent Movie, she settles into a spellbinding groove that advances her to the forefront of contemporary vocalists, rivaling the storytelling élan of Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon.JazzTimes Magazine
delicate delivery disarming as she almost whispers her lines . . . on the occasional standard, her takes are so original you're inclined to forget who wrote it.DownBeat Magazine, 4.5 stars
a winner by all measures, from the program of songs to the hues of emotion made musical and colored brightly by her amazing band. Stylianou’s set list is delivered with breathtaking clarity, thanks to the uncluttered arrangements that frame her gorgeous voice.Nick BewseyICON, 4.5 stars
In New York, New York, director Martin Scorsese's ambitiously flawed homage to Manhattan's postwar music scene, taxman Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro) explains to vocalist Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli) that a "major chord" is when everything in your life works out perfectly. Professionally speaking, singer-songwriter Melissa Stylianou has achieved a major chord. Across three previous albums, all distinctively good, Stylianou was finding her footing, experimenting with different styles and interpretive approaches. Now, with Silent Movie, she settles into a spellbinding groove that advances her to the forefront of contemporary vocalists, rivaling the storytelling élan of Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon.
Working with her regular quartet - pianist Jamie Reynolds, guitarist Pete McCann, bassist Gary Wang and drummer Rodney Green - augmented by cellist Yoed Nir, percussionist James Shipp and multireedist Anat Cohen, Stylianou traverses an intriguingly wide-ranging assortment of covers that extends from Jerome Kern, Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer to James Taylor and Paul Simon. Brazilian singer-songwriter Vanessa da Mata's "Onde Ir" unfolds with the delicacy of an orchid, while Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone" becomes a stunning study in regret. Three originals complete the project, including Stylianou's cautiously romantic lyrics added to Vince Mendoza's "Hearing Your Voice," and her heartbreaking narrative fitted to Edgar Meyer's "First Impressions." Finally, there is the title track, crafted by Stylianou and her husband, Reynolds, which brilliantly depicts the drama of a disintegrating relationship in cinematic terms.Christopher LoudonJazzTimes
June 2012 - 4 1/2 Stars
Stylianou's Silent Movie begins with an incredibly slow take of her own, this time with the standard "Smile." She's close-in, too, her own version of delicate delivery disarming as she almost whispers her lines to this famous tune, accompanied by a sympathetic and supportive group. While she relies more on the occasional standard, her takes are so original you're inclined to forget who wrote it. James Taylor's "Something In The Way She Moves," Paul Simon's "Hearts And Bones," "The Folks Who Live On The Hill" and Mancini/Mercer's "Moon River" all suggest a familiarity, a genuine connection, Stylianou's delivery at times recalling, among others, Joni Mitchell when she plays with intervals in a more natural, less affected way.
It's too bad we don't get more of her own material, the title track a narrative rich with allusions to heartbreak, the melody so sweet yet suggesting the pain that can come from intimate relationships, her voice sounding hopeful but filled with uncertainty. And her "Hearing Your Voice" (written with Vince Mendoza) and "First Impressions" (with Edgar Meyer) reinforce the impression that original material suits her. The slow and sad "Today I Sing The Blues" covers similar territory, but is delivered with less conviction, suggesting less regret.John EphlandDownbeat Magazine
April 2012 - 4 Stars
Don't be misled by the smooth finish and in-your-face prettiness of Melissa Stylianou's CD Silent Movie.
The New Yorker, a former Torontonian with a pure, honeyed voice, has made a smart, entrancing disc with musical substance and emotional depth beneath its accessible surface.
Stylianou excels at bittersweet, gentle heartbreakers, whether the source material is a tune by Charlie Chaplin (Smile, the patient, nicely contained disc opener), a Johnny Cash hit (I Still Miss Someone) or some choice Brazilian pop (Vanessa Da Mata's Onde Ir). Stylianou renders these tunes with great and moving delicacy, making them as much her own as the evocative title track (a composition by Stylianou's husband and pianist Jamie Reynolds, with her words) or the waltzing, haunting First Impressions (an Edgar Meyer piece with Stylianou's lyrics). Not to play the Canadian card too strongly, but there are moments when Stylianou brings to mind the floating, haunting intimacy of a Sara McLachlan or a young Joni Mitchell.
On these tracks, Pete McCann's ringing guitar work helps considerably to set the music aloft. He's an MVP on the CD whose versatility enriches the diversity of the proceedings, allowing Stylianou to plumb other emotions.
For example, Paul Simon's Hearts and Bones is jubilant, propelled by McCann's jubilant strumming that matches Stylianou's upbeat delivery. McCann's more laid-back acoustic guitar is key to the two-feel charm of The Folks Who Live On The Hill, an ode to contentment that also features Anat Cohen's clarinet and Gary Wang's bass. McCann's also crucial to the folky success of Stylianou's convincing cover of James Taylor's Something In The Way She Moves. The guitarist adds tasty twang to Today I Sing the Blues, which shows that Stylianou can use her pure voice and gifts for understatement and nuance to express the blues as meaningfully as a gritty belter does.
There are other touches of colour — discreet cello that swaddles Stylianou's regretfulness on First Impressions, Cohen's sinuous, entwining soprano saxophone on Hearts and Bones, her bass clarinet that pads a cover of Joanna Newsom's Swansea as well as Onde Ir.
But as the disc's final track — a spare but essential version of Moon River for voice and Jamie Reynolds' Satie-like-piano — makes clear, Stylianou is her disc's star, and a bright and luminous one she is at that.Peter HumThe Ottawa Citizen
May 2012 - 4 1/2 Stars
Melissa Stylianou is a new name to me, yet “Silent Movie” (Anzic Records) is her fourth recording and it’s a winner by all measures, from the program of songs to the hues of emotion, made musical and colored brightly by her amazing band. Her liner notes reveal that evoking a mood, a place or a memory is foremost on Stylianou’s mind, and in that respect I am reminded of Joni Mitchell’s early records since Stylianou’s style of singing suggests Mitchell as well.
By linking the listening of her album to the experience of watching a story unfold on screen, Stylianou smartly frames these twelve songs that comprise “Silent Movie” with a welcome intimacy. The gifted quartet of musicians that support her, guitarist Pete McCann, bassist Gary Wang, drummer Rodney Green and the fresh sounding pianist, Jamie Reynolds, collectively become the weavers of her dreams and Stylianou’s set list is delivered with breathtaking clarity, thanks to the uncluttered arrangements that frame her gorgeous voice. Her song selection mix modern classics like Paul Simon’s “Hearts and Bones” and James Taylor’s “Something In The Way She Moves,” with the unexpected (Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone”) and the band is often augmented by the multi-reed magic of Anat Cohen whose subtle assist gives the music a sonic buzz. Stylianou’s original lyrics (added to tunes by Vince Mendoza and Edgar Meyer) have equal power to move you, particularly the title track where a conflicted couple watch a film, yet their emotional division preoccupies them to distraction. Happily, the album has a satisfying completeness that keeps you fully engaged and its cinematic motif is nicely underscored by Charles’ Chaplin’s “Smile” and Mancini’s “Moon River,” stalwart screen gems with built in appeal that bookend the recording and which Stylianou delivers with delicate grace.Nick BewseyICON Magazine
For her 4th CD, Melissa Stylianou has assembled a fascinating collection of songs from various sources, ranging from originals to contemporary singer-songwriters (such as Joanna Newsom, Paul Simon and James Taylor) as well as "classic" songs from Henry Mancini, Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein and Johnny Cash. "Silent Movie" (Anzic Records) is best described by its creator as "a collection of small stories, everyday life caught in a series of moving frames." And what a fine storyteller Ms. Stylianou is.
The opening track, Charlie Chaplin's classic melody "Smile", is flat-out gorgeous. No frills, no vocal acrobatics or fancy solos, just the wisdom of the lyrics (composed by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons). The quartet that supports the vocalist - pianist Jamie Reynolds, guitaristPete McCann, bassist Gary Wang, and drummer Rodney Green - makes all the right moves, whether it's the pianist beneath the vocals or the whisper-soft percussion. Ms. Stylianou does not "sell" the song, she sings it. The joy she exudes on Taylor's "Something In the WayShe Moves" is honest; it makes me smile. Her take on Paul Simon's "Hearts and Bones" (aided by Anat Cohen's emotionally rich soprano saxophone) is gentle yet with an intensity that helps to illuminate the composer's story of a failed marriage. Ms. Cohen's bluesy clarinet winds around the vocal lines on "Folks Who Live on theHill", the Kern-Hammerstein tune from the 1937 film "High, Wide, and Lonesome" and popularized in the 1950s by Peggy Lee. The subtle humor of the piece is transmitted by Ms. Stylianou's happy not sappy vocal. The combination of Green's propulsive drumming and James Shipp's percussion is also quite splendid. Green's work on "I Still Miss Someone" (credit for the arrangement goes to Paul Mathew) helps to reinvent the Johnny Cash song, underscoring the plaintive vocal. McCann's guitar work is exquisite, understated and elegant. He channels Robert Johnson and Chet Atkins on "Today I Sing TheBlues", first recorded in 1948 by Helen Humes and in 1960 by Aretha Franklin (during her Columbia Records days.) There's a blues and country-folk feel to Joanna Newsom's "Swansea", the acoustic piano and Ms. Cohen's bass clarinet creating a quiet shower of notes behind the vocal.
Ms. Stylianou adds lyrics to compositions by pianist Reynolds (the title track), Vince Mendoza (the haunting "Hearing Your Voice"), and bassist Edgar Meyers (the tender, touching, ballad "FirstImpressions" which features lovely cello from Yoed Nir and a fine bass solo from Wang.) Like the other pieces on the disk, these lyrics tell stories of relationships that most, if not all, listeners can relate to.
"Moon River" closes the program. A piece as oft-recorded as the opening "Smile", here it's just Ms. Stylianou and Reynold's Erik Satie-like piano accompaniment moving simply through Johnny Mercer's simple but timeless lyrics. After they complete their 2 verses and choruses, a music box playing the same melody takes the CD out.
Quiet music does not always make for good listening but "Silent Movie" glows with intelligence and love of melody. Melissa Stylianou is not a "decorative" singer; she does have a lovely voice with a good range, fine enunciation and a refreshing lack of artifice. The band is super, the arrangements appealing and the sound excellent."Richard KaminsStep Tempest
Stylianou's solo vocals are at the centre of Silent Movie, where she's surrounded by a lush and shimmering settings. Propelling and punctuating all those gorgeous contours on her fourth album is drummer Rodney Green, who has played with everybody from Diana Krall to George Benson to Wynton Marsalis.
The Toronto-born singer's family moved to London in the 1980s. She was here long enough to be a Shark in an Oakridge production of West Side Story, when the school's drama program was helmed by Art Fidler.
With Fidler staying a friend, Stylianou has moved to NYC herself. She still shows enough Shark-like 'tude to pick good songs from all over. Silent Movie has ace selections from singer-songwriter James Taylor's songbook, when he was still on the old Apple label (Something in the Way She Moves) to a Johnny Cash lament (I Still Miss Someone) to Charlie Chaplin's greatest hit (Smile) to Henry Mancini's Oscar-winning Moon River.
The Mancini pop standard has already attracted another former London singer and stylist, the Halifax-based Smith -- who encored and scored with Moon River at a recent Orchestra London series event.
Like Krall, Stylianou is an interpreter who can create her own standards. Krall could count on husband and co-writer Elvis Costello when she was creating songs. Stylianou and her pianist (and husband) Jamie Reynolds co-wrote her new album's title track, an art song with a jazzy soul about life and love when the story on the screen is one's own.
Stylianou co-wrote two other tracks with different collaborators.
Whether the songs are her own, or from the Great American Songbook, Stylianou sings them with a delicate passion which is more sexy and sultry for the effortless control.James ReaneyLondon Free Press
April 3, 2012
Review of "Silent Movie" CD Release Show at Jazz Standard
Mix two parts jazz, one part folk, and a heaping spoonful of elegant soul, and the product is vocalist Melissa Stylianou's newest release Silent Movie. Whether played on a stereo or brought to life at the Jazz Standard, Stylianou's sound glides, swirls, and pensively tilt-a-whirls into her band's intricate momentum, until both vocals and instrumentals unite in ear-hugging harmony. That harmony spans a spectrum of moods over the album's journey, resonating with graceful tenderness every step of the way.
It's only fitting that the first step on Silent Movie's path is carved by the king of silent films himself – Charlie Chaplin. Stylianou captures the Chaplin classic "Smile" through a wistful lens, ribboning though Rodney Green's misty drums (drummer Mark Ferber played in concert) and Gary Wang's heavy-hearted bass. This melancholy turned haunting on stage as Stylianou pitched lower while percussionist James Shipp climbed higher, piercing the air with vibraphone spears and eerie chimes.
"Silent Movie" wears a similar shroud of clouded reflection around its shoulders, though lilted toward the sweeter side of bittersweetness by Pete McCann's warm guitar. Stylianou's darker-edged vocals also veer toward rosy horizons, coasting alongside Jamie Reynolds' nostalgic piano. The innate dynamic between the two is no surprise; the wife-husband pair wrote the piece together as a means of marital catharsis. Stylianou notes: "We were both going through therapy at the time […] It was difficult but fruitful. Writing that song paved the way ahead for us, musically and as a couple."
Stylianou's take on Paul Simon's "Hearts and Bones" reveals the folky side of her vocal repertoire. The band, too, spins its silky jazz ambience into an earthy medley of beats and sounds. The rustic switch doesn't fully come across on the recorded track, but in person, it was unmistakable. Ferber switched from drumsticks to bare hands, echoing a tribal feel accented by Shipp's triangle and Wang's quietly groundbreaking bass. Anat Cohen emerged as brassy innovator, rising to her feet to belt out unbridled soprano sax slur after the other.
Melissa Stylianou, however, was the pioneering force behind the evening and the album, her voice flowing and retreating like humble thunder. In "Hearts and Bones" and beyond, Stylianou illustrates scenes of love, loss, heartache, and hope in a chic modern light that shines long after Silent Movie is through.Sharon MizrahiThe Lindy Hopper NYC
April 14, 2012
Review of "Silent Movie" CD Release Show at Jazz Standard
During the second set of Toronto-born Melissa Stylianou's CD release event for Silent Movie (Anzic, 2012) at New York's Jazz Standard, the vocalist kicked things off with a rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "It Might As Well Be Spring," played at a slow tempo and showcasing guitarist Pete McCann.
The band was rounded out by pianist Jamie Reynolds, bassist Gary Wong and drummer Mike Ferber who, with the exception of Ferber, all played on the album. Stylianou then presented the title track, an original composition co-written with Reynolds. The tune featured guest saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen, who took the ballad in a bluesy direction with her nuanced improvisations.
Among the highlights from the set was the band's treatment of singer/songwriter James Taylor's early hit, "Something In The Way She Moves." While McCann approached it with a finger-picking style similar to what can be heard on Taylor's original recording, the band took the tune in more of a slow-jazz direction, thus creating an intriguing sonic blend. Also notable was her take on Cat Stevens' "Ruby Love," featuring McCann on mandolin and the bandleader on ukulele. It was a fun moment with a Mediterranean feel that allowed Cohen to perform an accomplished solo on soprano saxophone with a Klezmer-like sound.
Another memorable moment came with a rendition of Tom Ze's Portuguese-language "Menina Amanha de Manha," a baiao (a syncopated rhythm from Northeastern Brazil) with nonsensical lyrics that gave both Ferber and guest percussionist James Shipp to stand out and exercise their dexterity.
The set ended with Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz, featuring all eight musicians (including guitarist Gene Bertoncini, who was on hand during part of the show). The set ran a bit longer than usual for the venue, but it was a comprehensive showcase of Stylianou's eclectic style and vocal talent.Ernest BarteldesAll About Jazz.com
If, during the first half of this decade, you happened into Toronto’s slightly bedraggled, wonderfully bohemian Rex Hotel on a Friday night, you were as likely to have Melissa Stylianou serve you your pint of Molson’s as you were to hear her blend of Bjork, Cole Porter, Tom Waits and original tunes on the Rex’s tiny stage.
What you would have heard might have struck you as a little bit Joni Mitchell and a little bit Diana Krall, with rich veins of Ann Hampton Callaway warmth and Patricia Barber cool. In other words, a rather heady cocktail which, now that Stylianou has moved to New York in the hope of expanding her considerable fan base beyond Canada, continues to pour forth on the first of her albums widely available stateside.
Such varied delights as a funkified “Them There Eyes,” an exotically sultry “All of You” and a gorgeously dreamy “That Ole Devil Called Love” make her a standards-bearer worth watching. But it is Stylianou’s artfully imagined originals, ranging from the down-home zest of “Mary’s in the Tub” to the emotional wreckage of the title track, that shift her from engaging to captivating.Christopher LoudonJazzTimes Magazine
"Them There Eyes" is one of the hokiest, silliest tunes in the American popular songbook, and only a fool or a genius would try to bring it to life today. (Speaking of genius: I still recall with delight Jimmy Rowles and Al Cohn deconstructing this song in a now-forgotten recording from thirty years ago - someone please get that disk back into print!) But the very stylish Stylianou rises to the occasion, and tosses everything from surreal scatting to Middle Eastern modes into this vibrant performance. This vocalist is one of the best-kept secrets in jazz, but secrets like this deserve to be shared.Ted Gioiawww.jazzblog.com
When Melissa Stylianou moved to New York, broken-hearted jazz fans sent up a familiar, cranky refrain. Who would we refer to as a standard-bearer when getting in arguments about the depth and breadth of Toronto's jazz talent? What would we do with our Friday nights if Stylianou's trio wasn't playing at The Rex? The hypnotic, dream-like grooves of Sliding Down (her third self-released album) may be a major step forward, but there aren't many singers who know when to pull out the stops and, more importantly, when to hold a note and let it melt in the air. The separation was amicable, and, hey, at least we got visitation rightsDMEye Weekly, June 2006 Best of Festival Picks
Vocalist Stylianou makes a great career leap forward with this wonderful disc that's as much a tribute to her lyrics as it is to her light, airy and so assured singing. Her third album has 11 songs, for which she provides words and sometimes the music on five of them. Her clear, smooth delivery, open approach and ability to create intimacy (there's a hint of Blossom Dearie here) makes this session, backed by a top-drawer host of Toronto sidemen that includes guitarists Kim Ratcliffe and Kevin Breit, a standout.
Now relocated from Hogtown to New York, she's achieved a new level of performance that's well-exploited on the love-themed repertoire that includes the intricate rhythms of her "Mary's in the Tub," a far-out take on the Beatles' "Blackbird," neat vocalese on "Three Little Girls," the poetic "Lohengrin," the almost medieval title tune that slides into fashionable anxiety, and "L'Amitie," sung in French.
This album is clearly a best-of-year candidate.Geoff ChapmanThe Toronto Star
Jazz is often described as being about the sounds of surprise. It makes me happy when those surprises are good sounds, great sounds. It makes me unhappy, or uncomfortable or even embarrassed for the artist when those surprises are bad sounds. With the numbers of people throwing their hats in the ring, and identifying themselves as artists nowadays, and the facility that exists to record and press one's own CDs, those surprises can go either way. Delightfully, Melissa Stylianou's album Sliding Down is a wonderful, happy surprise.
The first surprise is Stylianou's refreshing rendition of "Them There Eyes." Having seen Betty Carter perform the song in person on a number of occasions, I was expecting a straight- ahead swinging approach. Instead - surprise - it is a lively samba, deliciously flavored with acoustic guitar and percussion. Stylianou has a sweet and appealing voice. Moreover, she sensitively makes use of a range of dynamics - from tissue-soft expressiveness to a brief belting out of the lyrics, at the end of the tune. It is instantly clear that she has developed the skills, intonation, articulation, lyrical understanding, and depth to captivate listeners for an entire album.
While Stylianou is a mature stylist, she is much more than just the vocalist. She composed the music and lyrics for two of the songs on Sliding Down: "Mary's In The Tub" and "Lohengrin." The former, lamenting lost love, starts out with an Indian-sounding intro. Stylianou deftly moves through the snaking, syncopated melody. Listen. She'll hold your attention through the entire track. "Lohengrin" opens softly. Her wordless vocalizations are gentle. Suddenly, and only briefly, she expresses the short lyric. Relax and enjoy the journey on which she leads us.
In addition to her originals, and the songs for which she composed lyrics, "Sliding Down" and "Three Little Girls," there are three standards. Stylianou adds her own twist to the Beatles' "Blackbird." She swings with finesse on a medium tempo version of Cole Porter's "All Of You." It's a powerful, toe-tapping performance, magnificent in the use of subtlety, and her bending and shaping of phrases. Ditto for her tingling rendition of "East of The Sun." It swings.
Some background...Before moving to New York, Melissa Stylianou spent time on the Toronto jazz scene, commanding the attention and respect of fans and artists alike. She won a grant in her native Canada that enabled her to come to the States to study privately with a few leading jazz artists - bolstering the opportunity to further develop her art, garner attention and opportunity. Sliding Down communicates quite clearly that Stylianou is a vocal artist who has put in the work to develop her gift , that she brings substantial taste and creativity to her performances, and that she has the versatility to formidably address a variety of styles.Winthrop BedfortJazz Improv Magazine, Jan. 207
Toronto chanteuse Melissa Stylianou's third album is undoubtedly a jazz recording, yet it's infused with enough original material so as to offer something fresh and fun in a genre that can get tedious and, let's admit it, pretentious. Not so with Stylianou. She picks easily recognizable, or at least easily likeable, standards, such as Cole Porter's "All of You," and "Them There Eyes," which was recorded by Billie Holiday. She also offers a sexy version of "That Ole Devil Called Love," also recorded by Holiday, which shows the album's versatility as both dinner and bedroom music.
Stylianou crosses jazz's borders to cover The Beatles' "Blackbird." She rearranges it with reckless abandon and renders it largely unrecognizable except for the lyrics; the end result is a lively recording that soars as Stylianou's scat reaches higher and higher. She departs from the low, throaty vocals of many famed jazz singers, and effortlessly travels the scale up and down in each song.
Stylianou's original compositions are easy to pick out from the standards, but all of the songs still flow into each other thanks to her consistent vocal performance through each track. She also takes chances with her own songs, adding mandolin, slide and steel guitars. If she loses you with one of the classics, unlikely, "Mary's in the Tub," "Lohengrin" and "Three Little Girls" will get you back on track, especially the latter with its East Indian flavour.Erin HardeThe Leader-Post, June 2006
Bien que son nom ne soit pas très connu chez nous, la Torontoise Melissa Stylianou fait sa place sur la scène du jazz canadien.
Élève de Carol Welsman, la chanteuse possède une voix enjôleuse et un excellent phrasé. Son troisième album lui permet de démontrer tous ses talents d'auteure-compositrice, particulièrement sur Lohengrin et Sliding Down. Ses lectures de Them There Eyes, soutenue efficacement par le percussionniste Alan Hetherington, et d'All of You, avec le guitariste Rob Pitch et le bassiste Jon Maharaj, insufflent une bouffée de fraîcheur à ces standards. Notons également les reprises de Blackbird des Beatles et, surprise, de L'Amitié popularisée par Françoise Hardy.Gilles TremblayLe Voir, 4.5 etoiles, June 2006
Local jazz singer Melissa Stylianou, a regular at the Rex on Fridays, stretches beyond traditional jazz clichés on her stylish second album, which features songs by Tom Waits, Björk and Toronto's Cate Friesen as well as one original (the dreamy "The Lonely Want to Be"). Stylianou steers Björk's haunting title track into Jobim territory with the help of guitarist/co-producer Kim Ratcliffe, and her light touch and confident avoidance of affected, attention-begging vocal stylings provide ample space for her talented band (Ratcliffe, pianist Nancy Walker, bassist Artie Roth, drummer Ted Warren and trumpet/flugelhorn player John MacLeod) to shine.MDIEye Weekly Magazine, 2001