Vocalist Melissa Stylianou, guitarist Gene Bertoncini, and bassist Ike Sturm make for a canorous combination. A working trio elevated by keen conversational rapport and an embrace of spur-of-the-moment suggestions, theirs is quite simply a perfect partnership.
With supreme skill and creative charm(s), these three turn old favorites into new treasures. Stylianou shines across opener “Sweet and Lovely,” the first of several pieces benefiting from bantering string dialogue and interplay. Voice and guitar glide together at the outset of “My Ideal,” which later surprises with the insertion of the bridge from “The Man I Love.” A perky “Perdido” makes a swinging case for this outfit’s lighthearted genius. The leader captivates with some pure-voiced Portuguese on “Corcovado.” And everybody operates with apt anticipation during “It Might as Well Be Spring.”
Though standards for trio are the obvious order of the day, there are notable exceptions in programming and performance that focus on the bonds behind and within the music. Bertoncini’s affecting “For Chet,” a composition paying tribute to Chet Baker, offers a glimpse into the guitarist’s rich past, which saw work with that storied trumpeter as well as many other legends of the music. A pair of voice-and-bass beauties—“It Could Happen to You” and a rightly bluesy “Time’s A-Wastin’” (a.k.a. “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be”)—speak to a chemistry developed over the course of many years and shared experiences. Stylianou’s rendezvous with Bertoncini on “My One and Only Love” nods to that pair’s first musical encounter some 14 years ago, when mutual connection Sturm made the introduction. The music, of course, took care of the rest, as it does to this very day.
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