DUCHESS: Live At Jazz Standard

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
DUCHESS: Live At Jazz Standard
There are a fair number of vocal groups blending harmoniously and swinging through the jazz set today, but none are as charmingly sassy as DUCHESS. With two studio albums already under a collective belt—actually three, if you include an under-the-radar Christmas set—it only made sense for vocalists Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou to finally show the greater listening community what Duchess does on the stage.

Joining up with its regular rhythm section—pianist Michael Cabe, guitarist Jesse Lewis, bassist Matt Aronoff and drummer Jared Schonig—DUCHESS delivers a collection that's equally concerned with gaiety and focus. As on the trio's 2015 eponymous debut—and the follow-up, Laughing At Life (Anzic, 2016)—the music is tight and the performances are compact. But three or four minutes is all this crew really needs to sell a song, so there's no need to belabor the point(s). "Heebie Jeebies," for example, doles out tight, caffeinated lines, bluesy aplomb and some primo piano work from Cabe in short order. And "It's A Man," poking due fun at the not-so-fair sex while also beautifully hamming up the relationship dynamic, gets its wonderfully cheeky point across in the blink of an eye.

While Cervini, Gardner and Stylianou continue to nod to forebearers of the format—notably their primary influence, The Boswell Sisters, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, The Andrews Sisters— this program leaves little doubt as to their ability to stand on their own six feet. In tackling material from earlier dates, adding to their recorded catalog with familiar fare like "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" and "Chattanooga Choo Choo," and dusting off lesser-known delights such as "Joseph, Joseph" and the appropriately-adopted "Three Little Sisters" (complete with horn kazoo adornments), DUCHESS stands in no group's shadow.

These whip-smart women see to it that all of the musical details in chief arranger Oded Lev-Ari's charts are on point, and they also seriously deliver with some marvelous banter. Some tend to sanitize live recordings with the removal of repartee, but this crew does no such thing. Instead, with asides giving background on a song's journey, opportunities to witness some gal-palling around, and even a playful turn of the gender tables offering some good-natured male objectification, DUCHESS adds volumes to the album and outlines the full experience of a live show. Those of us who missed out on these gigs at New York's Jazz Standard in May of 2019 clearly should have been there. It's doubtful that there was as much positive energy going on anywhere else in those moments.

Track Listing

Introductions; (We) Love Being Here with You; Dialogue; Swing Brother Swing; Dialogue; Heebie Jeebies; Band Introductions; It's a Man; Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen; On the Sunny Side of the Street; Dialogue; Joseph, Joseph; Dialogue; Three Little Sisters; Dialogue; A Little Jive is Good for You; Creole Love Call; Dialogue; Chattanooga Choo Choo; Dialogue; Everybody Loves My Baby.


Duchess: band/orchestra; Amy Cervini: voice / vocals; Hilary Gardner: voice / vocals; Melissa Stylianou: voice / vocals; Michael Cabe: piano; Jesse Lewis: guitar; Matt Aronoff: bass; Jared Schonig: drums.

Album information

Title: Live At Jazz Standard | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Anzic Records

Post a comment about this album


Shop Amazon


Sacred Ceremonies
Wadada Leo Smith with Milford Graves and Bill...
L'Impact du Silence
Francois Bourassa
The Bright Awakening
Paul Dunmall - Matthew Shipp - Joe Morris -...
Live in Ohrid
Dzijan Emin & The Magical Orchestra
Sing To The World
Benito Gonzalez
Jeffrey Morgan
Mindaugas Stumbras


All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.