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Duchess: A Sisterly Listening Session

Before & After with the vocal trio

Vocal trio Duchess (photo by Shervin Lainez)
Hilary Gardner, Amy Cervini and Melissa Stylianou (from left) are Duchess (photo by Shervin Lainez)

Though vocalists Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou boast impressive solo careers, they share a long history of professional intersections. Cervini and Gardner were once half of a vocal quartet, Monday Off, formed in 1999; Cervini and Stylianou, both Canadian by birth, have been uniting off and on since the mid-2000s. (Gardner originally hails from Alaska.) And a few years back, all three teamed with singer Carolyn Leonhart. But it wasn’t until 2013 that they uncorked the sparkling Duchess, after Cervini’s husband, Oded Lev-Ari, the composer, arranger, producer and pianist, suggested the three pals form a trio.

Specializing in what they cheekily refer to as “girl-on-girl harmony,” the threesome made their recording debut in 2015 with Duchess, earning widespread praise for their tight harmonies and fun-loving revelry, both of which draw heavily on such sororal outfits as the Boswells, Andrews and McGuires. Their recent follow-up, Laughing at Life (released, like its predecessor, on the Anzic label), is every bit as clever and delightful. Earlier this year, while in Toronto for a multi-night engagement, the duchesses sat down with JazzTimes to test their knowledge of singers and vocal groups, vintage and new.

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