Melissa Stylianou

Since the beginning of this century Melissa Stylianou, a jazz singer, has been turning heads. Her recording projects have won her fans all over the world, as well as praise from DownBeat and The New Yorker. Stylianou’s latest album, No Regrets (her fifth disc and second for Anzic Records in New York), is all about spontaneity and enjoying the moment. In a studio session that lasted two hours, Stylianou recorded jazz standards and other favorite songs. She was accompanied by Linda Oh, Bruce Barth, and Matt Wilson, a trio of New York stars. With slick guest spots from clarinetist Anat Cohen, and Billy Drewes, she captured the joy of spontaneity and making the most of every moment. Stylianou’s singing remains a joy, as usual. This is in keeping with the description of Grammy-nominated pianist Fred Hersch who said that Stylianou was “a delightful jazz singer with a great sense for music.” Her previous albums featured Stylianou putting her own spin on songs such as Bjork, Joanna Newsom, Johnny Cash, and Tom Waits. While jazz standards are a big part of No Regrets, Stylianou dives deeper into old material than ever before. Stylianou sings songs by Jerome Kern, the Gershwins and Duke Ellington. She also includes a Billie Holiday song, a lyrical take on Thelonious Monk, the indigo hued blues tune “A Nightingale Can Sing the Blues”, and even an Anglo-folk track “Down By the Salley Gardens.” “Singing in clubs and jazz standards was where I first learned how to sing. Spontaneity, a sense of humor and spontaneity were the norm in that environment. I was able to absorb the style naturally. The title No Regrets is a reference to the feeling of jumping in, being completely yourself, and taking risks without second-guessing. It felt so relaxed. Everyone took the music seriously, but not too seriously. It was a mixture of humor and urgency. As if we were performing a great gig in the studio.” JazzTimes reviewed Stylianou’s 2012 Anzic album Silent Movie. The magazine stated that Stylianou had reached “the forefront” of contemporary vocalists. Silent Movie saw Stylianou focus on telling intimate stories through song with a group of top New York musicians. She added her own lyrics to the instrumental pieces of Vince Mendoza and Edgar Meyer. The disc’s poignant, intimate title track was a Stylianou composition with Jamie Reynolds. She also revived old jazz numbers – “Smile,”” “Moon River”, “The Folks Who Live on the Hill”, etc. She continued to broaden the music repertoire by adding her own lyrics to songs by Paul Simon (“Hearts and Bones”) and James Taylor (“Something in the Way She Moves”) as well as Johnny Cash (“I Still Miss Someone”) and Joanna Newsom (“Swansea”) among others. Stylianou stated that she was drawn to songs because they are’small stories. Silent Movie was all about telling those stories.” Stylianou made a name for herself with her 1999 debut album, “It Never Entered my Mind”, and continued expanding the jazz songbook. Bachelorette, her 2001 album, featured songs by Fats Waller and Thelonious Monk, as well as Bjork’s title track and songs from Tom Waits and Sting. All of these were delivered with the singer’s trademark charm and musicality. Sliding Down (2006), her sophisticated and rhythmically refined album, featured a rich mix of the traditional and contemporary. “Them There Eyes” was a standout track, as well as “Blackbird” by the Beatles. JazzTimes magazine was impressed by her performance of “All of You” and “That Ole Devil Called Love”, which were both exotic and dreamy. Stylianou’s imaginative originals are what make her captivating. They range from the down-home enthusiasm of “Mary’s In the Tub” to the emotional wreckage and the title track. Stylianou is a regular at the 55 Bar in Manhattan’s West Village, where she has a residency since 2008. There, she explores new material regularly with her vibrant, interactive group, which includes guitarist Pete McCann (pianist), Gary Wang (bassist), and drummer Mark Ferber. Stylianou is also a long-standing member of Ike Stturm’s Evergreen, which sings original jazz settings of sacred music at St. Peter’s Church, Manhattan. Her adventurous, improvisational side is evident in her participation as the featured singer with Gregg Bendian’s Mahavishnu Project. This project performs John McLaughlin’s music and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Stylianou says that the Mahavishnu project offered “a different type of intensity than what I do on my solo.” It’s some of the most challenging music I’ve ever played, but it’s also the most rewarding. It’s rhythmically complicated, requires a lot of improvisation, and can get thrillingly loud at times. It makes me sweat, which is great for performers. It can be as difficult to sing a ballad at a venue like the 55 Bar. This kind of vulnerability is its own challenge.” Stylianou has performed on some of New York’s most prestigious stages including Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space and Joe’s Pub. Stylianou’s reputation has been praised by critics, peers and audiences alike. He has performed with top jazz musicians such as Anat Cohen and Matt Wilson as well as the likes of Bruce Barth and Gary Versace. Stylianou also teaches Music Together classes to young children, as well as voice at the 92nd Street Y. from

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