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Melissa Stott – The Picture

FEET FIRST FFR 5005 [68:44]



Wish It Wasn’t True
A Little Contented Place
Beware Of Your Heart
I Just Can’t Stop The Tears
That’ll Be Us
The Picture
I’m Looking At You With New Eyes
Romance Addio
Cutch O’Lanza
Mexico Blue
Melissa Stott (vcl) with Stjepko Gut (tpt, flugelhorn), Matteo Raggi (tnr sax/bassoon), Angela Alessi (vln), Nico Menci (pno), Max Chirico (pno – tracks 3,4,12,13), Davide Brillante (gtr), Pietro Ciancaglini (dbl bass), Alessandro Minetto (dms)
Rec. Artesuono Studios, Udine, October 2006

As I noted in her debut Feet First disc Melissa Stott was born in Manchester to a Singaporean-Chinese mother and an English father and now lives in Italy where she’s married to the pianist and trumpeter Max Chirico. That first album, rooted loosely in the classic Mainstream, also sported self-penned songs that added depth to the programme, songs that seemed confessional.

With this second disc Stott has now written all thirteen songs and she broadens her stylistic and harmonic base further whilst once more being supported by her fine Italian band.

Things are decidedly more boppish than the earlier album, which embraced jump and bossa and thirties swing. There are more affiliations here pianistically with say, Bill Evans and Al Haig this time around. Then too the range of sound and colour is broadened – Matteo Raggi plays a long opening bassoon solo in A Little Contented Place which is also infused with some of the same quality of easy Latin swing and Dave Newton piano that also informed that first album. In fact the slow tempo reminds me of another influence, Stacey Kent, and her gorgeous version with Newton of Close Your Eyes.

Beware Of Your Heart is a Three Little Words type of song and has some fluid bop lines from Gut and rather more mainstream ones from Raggi. Throughout the album we can hear not only the sensitive introspection and wit of the lyrics but also some sensibly varied arrangements – chase choruses, walking bass lines, that pervasive Getz-derived bossa feel. We can also hear the violin of Angela Alessi in a couple of tracks, in the latter of which, Hindsight, Stott opens with a introductory paragraph of decidedly English folk song affiliations. Then again the band perfectly catches the authentic Blue Note sound in Cara. Less interesting to me is Strott’s obvious enthusiasm for Ella Fitzgerald’s scat singing, which marks out Cutch O’Lanza (something jokey is going on with that title) – she also visited this territory on her first album. Enough already.

Stott continues to explore in this album. An all self-penned disc is a risky business but survives here by virtue of the various rhythmic and harmonic varieties explored. The stylistic exuberance of that first album has transformed into something more harmonious. And the Stacey Kent influence has been more thoroughly absorbed now. Still, a few standards wouldn’t be a bad thing and let’s hope her next album will see her exploring them, along with her own eloquent songs.

Jonathan Woolf


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