Born: September 30, 1976 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Originally from Toronto, Ontario, Melissa is currently based in New York City, immersing herself in its rich music scene and establishing herself as a formidable talent. Over the past 8 years, she has developed a loyal fan base in Canada playing regularly in that country's major jazz clubs and festivals. Influenced by a range of classic and contemporary singers including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Norma Winstone and Luciana Souza, Melissa’s sound is rooted in the tradition of jazz singing, while remaining entirely her own. This is evident on her third and most recent album, sliding down (Sleepin' Bee Music 2006, Festival Dist.), the much-anticipated follow up to 2001’s critically acclaimed “bachelorette*”.
sliding down is a sublime collection of original songs, contemporary tunes and jazz standards bound to thrill both long-time fans and newcomers to Melissa’s singular style. It is a textured and nuanced album that features original lyrics and compositions alongside more familiar jazz and pop repertoire. Them There Eyes, All of You, and the Beatles' Blackbird are re-imagined by a stellar ensemble with Melissa's warm and inviting voice at the forefront. Much of the repertoire on the album was developed and honed during the Melissa Stylianou Trio’s five year residency every Friday evening at Toronto’s venerable Rex Hotel. Trio mates Kim Ratcliffe (guitar) and Artie Roth (bass) are featured prominently on this record in their multi-faceted roles as performers, arrangers and composers (Kim and Melissa collaborated on 3 of the 5 original songs), while a selection of Toronto’s finest jazz musicians fill out the mix.
Drummer Ted Warren and percussionist Alan Hetherington join the trio on the lilting “Mary’s in the Tub” and the hypnotic “Three Little Girls” (both co-written by Melissa and Kim) and guitarist extraordinaire Kevin Breit lends his distinctive voice to both of these songs as well as the spirited version of “Them There Eyes” and “L’Amitie”, a French pop song that made its way into Melissa’s repertoire during a 2005 concert tour of Quebec. Guitarist Rob Piltch, drummer Davide DiRenzo and bassist Jon Maharaj create a solid but playful environment for Melissa’s loving interpretations of the jazz classics “All of You”, “East of the Sun” and “That Ole Devil Called Love.” With “Lohengrin” (an original song whose lyric is loosely inspired by the opera of the same name) and “Sliding Down”, Melissa treats the listener to a different instrumentation and approach, inviting cellist Kevin Fox to join Kevin Breit (guitars,mandolin), Alan Hetherington (percussion, drums) and pianist Jamie Reynolds in some nuanced ensemble playing and sparkling interplay. The title track “Sliding Down” (composed by virtuoso bassist Edgar Meyer and with lyrics by Melissa) lends itself especially well to the group’s dynamic and the album concludes on a wistful yet upbeat note.
Melissa travelled across Canada this past summer with her quartet, performing to capacity audiences at some of the most prestigious festivals in the country including the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Atlantic Jazz Festival (Halifax) and the Toronto Jazz Festival. This November, the trio will perform in four cities in Ontario, Quebec and Eastern Canada on a promotional tour for the album.
In New York, Melissa is gaining recognition and buliding a following with regular gigs at Perch Cafe in Brooklyn (where she also curates the weekly jazz series), Night and Day Restaurant in Brooklyn and at Bar Next Door and Cornelia St. Cafe in Manhattan. Her bandmates include Jamie Reynolds (piano), Steve Cardenas (guitar), Chris Lightcap on bass, and Matt Wilson on drums.