Laughing At Life

For a good time, call Duchess. On its 2014 self-titled first album, this trio of lovely New York vocalists—Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou—proved it could swing “close harmony,” revive wonderful vintage tunes and crack wise without missing a beat. On this, the group’s second collection, the smooth vocal blend, good humor and general joie de vivre continue as these gifted vocalists continue to mine the American Songbook.

They are greatly aided by a crack band, arranged by producer Oded Lev-Ari, and special guests Anat Cohen on clarinet and Wycliffe Gordon on trombone. “Swing, Brother, Swing,” a Clarence Williams classic, is a perfect opener. The song also features an explosive tenor solo by Jeff Lederer, as the ladies exhort in three-part harmony, “Swing it, Jeffrey. ... Come on, Jeffrey!” The nostalgia quotient is high on songs like the romantic “Stars Fell On Alabama” and the World War II ballad “We’ll Meet Again.”

Duchess has cited as its main inspiration the Boswell Sisters, the 1930s-era jazz-singing sisters whose uncanny blend and daring arrangements are still unsurpassed. A remake of a Boswell hit, “Everybody Loves My Baby,” one of the all-time classics of vocal jazz, is a high point here. In the song’s breakneck “B” section, rather than try to copy the sisters’ uniquely indecipherable version of pig Latin, the trio recites its own lyrics, sung impressively fast. I did, however, make out the words “tip our hat to the Bozzies.”

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