By j. poet | Published October 2022
For her latest outing, Melissa Stylianou leaned into the Great American Songbook for a collection of brilliant reinventions. She’s accompanied by Gene Bertoncini on acoustic guitar and stand-up bass player Ike Sturm, but they play together like a band, not a singer with backing musicians. Although this is their first formal collaboration, they met up 10 years ago. Sturm introduced Stylianou to Bertoncini, a man he considers a mentor. The first time they played together, something clicked. Since then, they’ve all collaborated on various projects, but this recording is their first as a trio.
Stylianou shows off her remarkable vocal and emotional chops here, trading equal time with Strum and Bertoncini. They show off their chemistry on “For Chet,” the album’s one original, a tribute to Bertoncini’s former boss, Chet Baker. He opens the tune strumming a few bossa nova-like chords. Stylianou adds her scatted improvisations to the mix, harmonizing with Bertoncini’s melody. Strum slips in, following Bertoncini’s lead, then Stylianou rejoins them to trade solos. She opens “Perdido” scatting along with Bertoncini and Sturm, stepping back to let them trade solos that playfully dance around the rhythm and melody. Stylianou sings “Corcovado” in Portuguese and English, with a yarning tone echoing Astrud Gilberto’s original, then lays out to let the rhythm section experiment with multiple variations of tempo. They all trade solo efforts on “It Might As Well Be Spring,” with Bertoncini’s guitar, Stylianou’s wistful vocal and Sturm’s bass interacting playfully to bring the set to a close.
Dream Dancing: Sweet And Lovely; If You Never Come To Me; My Ideal; It Could Happen To You; For Chet; Perdido; Corcovado; Time’s A Wastin’ (Things Ain’t What The Used To Be); My One And Only Love; It Might As Well Be Spring. (46:26)
Personnel: Melissa Stylianou, vocals; Gene Bertoncini, guitar; Ike Sturm, bass.
Ordering Info: anzicrecords.com