There are about a half dozen positive aspects concerning Silent Movie and that is before taking a look at what may well be one of the finest vocal performances of the year. An eclectic song list including Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” along with some of the more obscure tunes from James Taylor, Paul Simon and a Henry Mancini / Johnny Mercer classic have Silent Movie poised for instant success.
Far more than a set of passable covers, phenomenal arrangements combined with Stylianou’s ability to move from vocalist to story teller in such a chameleon like fashion lends the release to an intimate ambiance seldom found in the typical jazz vocal release. Clearly this is not Stylianou’s first rodeo, this is actually the fourth release for the Big Apple native and one where the singer goes for the less is more approach and with a huge payoff!
Opening this eclectic song list is the iconic Charlie Chaplin tune “Smile.” While Stylianou’s prodigious vocal talents have been turning heads and have caused Down Beat to refer to her as “an original” what makes her unique is the ability to hear the arrangement that best suits her own voice thus leaving her own indelible mark on a tune without simply knocking off a passable riff on a classic that has been done to death. The difference between a vocalist and a story teller is the innate ability to transcend the song and make the artistic connection with the listener. Granted taste is subject but the blatantly obvious simply goes without saying. “Smile” is dialed back to suit the impeccable phrasing and artistic temperament of Stylianou as she takes ownership of the time tested classic. The James Taylor classic “Something In The Way She Moves” makes a subtle and incredible organic shift into a more contemporary jazz setting with Stylianou’s natural delivery and the an organic presentation from Pete McCann on guitar and the nuance from drummer Rodney Green. Anat Cohen is simply my musical easy button. Having covered the New York scene extensively over the last year, anytime Cohen’s name shows up on a release it is a virtual given that something very special is in store. “Hearts and Bones” from Paul Simon opens with a Cohen solo and much like the James Taylor tune dances along the incredible jazz tightrope of organic pop with amazing jazz sensibilities. Capping off an incredibly entertaining release, Stylianou takes “Moon River’ and in the same fashion as “Smile” she dials back the tempo and takes a more wistful approach. Melancholy but never morose, Stylianou does more than sing the words she makes the music.
Melissa Stylianou is one of the artists that I have featured that seems to be on the more personal quest for self discovery through her music. A uniquely personal recording that finds Stylianou dialed in for a studio performance that is actually more commonly found in a live club setting.
A vocal artist that is deceptively seductive with a zen like less is more approach that pushes the music front and center while she is simply along for the ride. An impressive ensemble cast of first call musicians and Stylianou’s impeccable vocals immediately catapult this release to the top of the heap!
Silent Movie Review by Brent Black of @Critical Jazz www.criticaljazz.com