Melani Skybell: Just a Chase Away (2007)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Melani Skybell is a classically-trained pianist who always dreamed of singing. Four albums into that dream, she's shown herself to be a superb vocalist possessed of a warm and inviting tone with a bit of sass to itsort of a Nancy Wilson feline tang.
Just a Chase Away showcases not just her voice, but also Skybell's excellent songwriting skills. The disc opens with the title tune, which slips forward on a slinky groove that features a guitar, bass and drum rhythm section, as well as soulful tenor sax supplied by Peter Brewer. This is vocal jazz of a classic variety, with a wee hours feeling to it.
"Days Like This" features Skybell's horn-like delivery and some gorgeous piano/guitar interplay over a bossa rhythm. "Let's Get Away" features Peter Brewer on flute, and Skybell's laid-back, effortless-sounding (and if it sounds this easy, you know it isn't) lyric delivery.
Skybell brings two covers into the mix as well: Burke and Van Heusen's "It Could Happen to You," and Duke Ellington's "I'm Just a Lucky So and So," both done with a knowing aplomb. Skybell's "The Stars in Your Eyes," a highlight, rolls out on a floating groove that features some of her loveliest piano work of the set behind some of her most sensual singing.
Much of the atmosphere on Just a Chase Away leans in the bossa nova direction, making for a set that sustains a cool, relaxed mood marvelously, like a perfectly-paced show that draws you in to charm and seduce you. A truly fine vocal effort.
Track Listing: Just a Chase Away; Days Like this; Let's Get Away; The Stars in Your eyes; Dreamflight; It Could Happen to You; Simple Life Worth Living; The First Time; I'm Just a Lucky So and So; Nothing is Too Wonderful to Be True.
Personnel: Melani Skybell: piano, voice; Peter Brewer: saxophones, flute; Sam Walker: guitar; Kyp Green: bass; Roy Snodgrass: drums; Jorge Ginorio: percussion; Steve Browne: flugelhorn, percussion.
Record Label: Self Produced