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MELISSA STOTT

The Picture

Feetfirst Records FFR5005 [68:44]

 

 

 


Wish It Wasn’t True [7:07] +
You [5:08] +
A Little Contented Place [5:34] ++
Beware of Your Heart [3:50] ++
I Just Can’t Stop The Tears [5:56] +
That’ll Be Us [5:24] +
The Picture [4:39] +
I’m Looking At You With New Eyes [4:06] +
Romance Addio [5:13] +
Cara [4:40] +
Cutch O’Lanza [4:59] +
Mexico Blue [6:05] *, ++
Hindsight [6:05] *, ++
All music and lyrics by Melissa Stott
Melissa Stott (vocal)
Stjepko Gut (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Matteo Raggi (tenor saxophone, bassoon)
Angela Alessi (violin) *
Nico Menci (piano) +
Max Chirico (piano) ++
David Brillante (guitar)
Pietro Ciancaglini (bass)
Alessandro Minetto (drums)
rec. Artesuono Studios, Udine, Italy, 16-17 October 2006

This is a striking album, technically accomplished, intelligent and distinctive.

Responsible for all the words and music, and for most of the arrangements, Stott is clearly an all-round musician. (According to her website – http://www.melissastott.com – she is not only a performer, lyricist and composer since she also teaches ballet, classical piano and harmony, jazz singing and choral singing!).

Certainly there is an assured musicality to everything on this album. Her work here has an intimacy which rapidly engages – and retains – the listener’s attention and feelings; her lyrics combine a quasi-conversational directness with a degree of formality which distances them from the crudely confessional. Though the CD booklet prints all the lyrics there really is no need for them – Stott’s diction is an absolute model of clarity. The intelligence and well-developed verbal sense evident in the lyrics is also everywhere apparent in the phrasing of her singing. The whole approach is sophisticated and individual, without ever being remotely pretentious or wilfully eccentric.

Unlike, say Madeline Peyroux’s work, which is excessively dependent on the influence of a single model (Billie Holiday), Stott’s influences are a good deal more extensive and various. Some of her writing clearly echoes the Great American Songbook – some of her harmonies and melodic lines have something of Gershwin about them. At other times there are reminders of Bill Evans. I was fascinated to read that she had studied with the great Barry Harris, one of the finest of post-bop jazz pianists. Her vocal patterns occasionally suggest an affinity with Anita O’Day and, maybe Ella Fitzgerald. But the voice itself affects no imitation of any predecessor and in most respects she is very much her own woman; making an album entirely of her own compositions, removes any excessive temptation to echo the work of others. Her first album which I haven’t heard, was also made up of her own compositions, see review.

There’s an easy swing to everything here, and she is very well served by an excellent group of sympathetic accompanists, a number of whom get their chance to take solo space – there is some sensitive tenor work by Matteo Raggi (who also plays a superb intro to ‘A Little Contented Place’ on bassoon), Stjepko Gut makes some Clifford-Brownish contributions on trumpet and flugelhorn and Davide Brillante plays some striking solos on guitar.

But Stott is at the forefront of the CD. Her voice has a distinctive, memorable timbre, a fullness of tone which doesn’t rob it of agility. Perhaps there isn’t quite the variety of tonal colour of the truly great jazz singers, but there’s time for that yet. Her singing has real emotional substance, achieved through an approach that is essentially understated – there’s nothing remotely over the top here. Highlights include the bossa-nova rhythms of ‘Cara’, poised on the border between innocence and experience, the forceful emotional paradoxes of ‘Wish it Wasn’t True’ and the witty up-tempo number ‘Romance Addio’. But, in truth, there isn’t a dull track on the CD, and even in a time when we seem to be unusually well-supplied with female vocalists, this is a CD that deserves to attract attention and admiration.

Glyn Pursglove

see also review by Jonathan Woolf

 



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