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Melissa Stylianou Quartet: New York City, NY, April 3, 2012

Ernest Barteldes By
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Melissa Stylianou Quartet
Jazz Standard
New York, NY
April 3, 2012

During the second set of Toronto-born Melissa Stylianou's CD release event for Silent Movie (Anzic, 2012) at New York's Jazz Standard, the vocalist kicked things off with a rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "It Might As Well Be Spring," played at a slow tempo and showcasing guitarist Pete McCann.

The band was rounded out by pianist Jamie Reynolds, bassist Gary Wong and drummer Mike Ferber who, with the exception of Ferber, all played on the album. Stylianou then presented the title track, an original composition co-written with Reynolds. The tune featured guest saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen, who took the ballad in a bluesy direction with her nuanced improvisations.

Among the highlights from the set was the band's treatment of singer/songwriter James Taylor's early hit, "Something In The Way She Moves." While McCann approached it with a finger-picking style similar to what can be heard on Taylor's original recording, the band took the tune in more of a slow-jazz direction, thus creating an intriguing sonic blend. Also notable was her take on Cat Stevens' "Ruby Love," featuring McCann on mandolin and the bandleader on ukulele. It was a fun moment with a Mediterranean feel that allowed Cohen to perform an accomplished solo on soprano saxophone with a Klezmer-like sound.

Another memorable moment came with a rendition of Tom Ze's Portuguese-language "Menina Amanha de Manha," a baiao (a syncopated rhythm from Northeastern Brazil) with nonsensical lyrics that gave both Ferber and guest percussionist James Shipp to stand out and exercise their dexterity.

The set ended with Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz, featuring all eight musicians (including guitarist Gene Bertoncini, who was on hand during part of the show). The set ran a bit longer than usual for the venue, but it was a comprehensive showcase of Stylianou's eclectic style and vocal talent.

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