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.