From the 1930s through the early ’60s, female vocal trios remained a fixture on pop charts and airwaves. Come the British Invasion, then the singer-songwriter era, those tight and breezy harmonies fell out of favor. Across the past four decades there have been occasional attempts at revival, both terrific (JaLaLa, featuring onetime Manhattan Transfer mates Laurel Massé and Janis Siegel alongside New York Voices’ Lauren Kinhan) and lamentable (the clownish Puppini Sisters). On the plus side of the ledger is Duchess, a new threesome comprising top-notch stylists Melissa Stylianou, Amy Cervini and Hilary Gardner.
Over the years, Cervini has worked individually with Stylianou and Gardner. It was Cervini’s husband, Oded Lev-Ari, the album’s producer and principal arranger, who suggested their triple-play. Landing somewhere near the midpoint of the swinging Boswell Sisters and the pop-centric McGuire Sisters, Duchess works precisely because, as Cervini notes in the press materials, “There’s a big wink in what we do, a mix of levity and sincerity.”
Backed by an ace rhythm section-pianist Michael Cabe, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Matt Wilson-enhanced on various tracks by saxophonist Jeff Lederer and guitarist Jesse Lewis, the trio sails smoothly from the tender folds of “P.S. I Love You” and “I’ll Be Seeing You” to the effervescent sass of “My Brooklyn Love Song” and “A Little Jive Is Good for You.” Most fun: the Kay Kyser-worthy “It’s a Man.” Most engaging: a silken, Stylianou-anchored “Hummin’ to Myself.” Most impressive: the dazzling closer, an obviously Boswells-influenced “Heebie Jeebies.”