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Melissa Stylianou: No Regrets

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Given Canadian-in-New-York Melissa Stylianou’s recording trajectory-four previous albums of steadily increasing authority and ingenuity-it’s hardly surprising that No Regrets is so extraordinarily good. Gone are Stylianou’s usual accompanists, replaced by an all-star trio of pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Matt Wilson. Two equally stellar players-alto saxophonist Billy Drewes and clarinetist Anat Cohen (also featured on Stylianou’s prior release, 2012’s Silent Movie)-each guest on two tracks.

Everything is intentionally old-school. The standards-heavy track list combines sturdy chestnuts-the Gershwins’ “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” Ellington’s “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good)”-with less-familiar gems like Dick Charles and Larry Marks’ “A Nightingale Can Sing the Blues” and Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr.’s “Somebody’s on My Mind.” The actual recordings, masterminded by Oded Lev-Ari, were done live to two-track in one marathon session that lasted from midday ’til the wee hours: no edits, overdubs or technologic chicanery.

The mood is soft and easy, Stylianou and company settling into a smoky, half-past-midnight coziness. Her readings are invariably cunning, with all five bandmates crafting integrally thoughtful abetment: the gently propulsive bassline Oh floats beneath “I Wish I Knew,” the subdued wistfulness of Cohen’s clarinet on “I’ll Never Be the Same,” the fairytale lilt of Barth and Wilson’s interplay on “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” the fluttering yearn of Drewes’ sax on “I Got It Bad.” Smart. Seamless. Stunning.

Originally Published