Michele Mele: Like This

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Michele Mele: Like This Toronto's Michele Mele is one in a line of vocal jazz singers dating back to Peggy Lee who dares to write songs for the sheer joy of creativity. Her debut release, Like This, is a catalogue of mainstream musical styles. Unfortunately for jazz lovers, Mele showcases her cool singing talent to the point of stunting the very music behind it.

Mele’s music declares her independence while acknowledging jazz traditions. She was raised on classical piano, and (at least) three generations of her family have revelled in song. “Music played a very important role in our family life growing up. My father is a guitarist (among other instruments) and my mother is a singer and plays the accordian. All four siblings played the piano, though I was the one who carried on,” says Mele.

Her lyrics are intensely personal yet her music rings with choruses of big band, swing, Latin and pure west coast cool. She composed all of the 12 tracks on Like This, with Danny Colomby pitching in on two songs.

“I’m not in control, I can’t help myself.”

It is clear that Michele Mele has lived her music. She delivers the title track with such conviction that the listener could whistle the melody for days. We know we are in for some textured musicianship with the dawn of producer Don Breithaupt‘s first piano solo. Mele is adept at sequencing her songs to account for the ebb and flow of fluctuating inspiration – “Like This” and “The Zone” providing outstanding examples. She can be cheeky, as on “Too Many Men.” As an artist who considers herself to be on a musical journey, Michele Mele introduces this first record as a powerful prologue in her epic metaphor.

This record defies rigid stylistic casting. “I think that people like to hear something beautiful no matter what the genre...” says Mele, “and it's time to welcome peace and good intelligent thoughtful things into our lives.”

Like This is superbly produced. Don Breithaupt‘s seasoned aural atmosphere combines powerfully with Mele’s great momentary ideas. The tempo change of “Not Enough Room” is welcome. “Emily’s Eyes” personifies the whimsy of Mele’s artistic spirit. “I Only Hear the Song” features some wonderful flugel horn and harmonica solos (short as they are).

That may be the biggest problem with this collection: arrangements that are too tightly compressed. Mele displays her voice at the expense of musical expanse. We zip through 12 songs in just under 47 minutes – an average of just under four minutes per track. Most of the songs are faded at the conclusion of the vocal score, and plenty of heavyweight solos remain shunted. We long for Bill McBirnie’s fine fluting to ramble, for the measured guitar and piano solos to further distinguish Like This from other, less substantial, records. This music is too good to play hit and run.

“There’s not enough room for all of my selves at one time.”

The album’s conclusion, “Arms Length,” paralyses the listener’s aesthetic sense. We’re seduced by the beauty of acoustic piano ballad and Mele’s final wish: “I need to hear you say that you like me.” Silence deafens the moment merely 90 seconds later. This music, with its pause and exploration, would have been the ultimate denouement in a very personal musical statement. Why not take a deep musical breath and let the musicians groove?

Like This shows that Michele Mele will make her singing truly great when she more deeply indulges her writing persona. Luckily, Mele can easily fix that by expanding on a promising wealth of vocal and instrumental ideas.

Track Listing: Like This; Emily

Personnel: Michele Mele, vocals; Debbie Flemning, background vocals; Reena Gayle, background vocals; Don Breithaupt, piano, keyboards; Grant Slater, piano; Danny Colomby, guitar, bass, keyboards; Lew Mele, bass; Tony Zorzi, guitar; John Mele, drums, percussion; John Johnson, alto saxophone; Perry White, baritone saxophone; John Johnson, saxophone; Vern Dorge, saxophone; Terry Promane, trombone; Gord Meyers, trombone; Terry Promane, trombone; Bill McBirnie, flute; Guido Basso, trumpet, flugel horn, harmonica;Tony Carlucci, flugel horn.

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Toronto Sound | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Flaga: Book of Angels, Volume 27" CD/LP/Track Review Flaga: Book of Angels, Volume 27
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 14, 2016
Read "Clockwork" CD/LP/Track Review Clockwork
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 13, 2016
Read "Meditations on Freedom" CD/LP/Track Review Meditations on Freedom
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: January 16, 2017
Read "Inerrant Space" CD/LP/Track Review Inerrant Space
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 17, 2016
Read "Brain//Child" CD/LP/Track Review Brain//Child
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 24, 2016
Read "Cactus" CD/LP/Track Review Cactus
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 26, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!