Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Already firmly established in the pantheon of creative Irish artists, Melanie O’Reilly is recognized as one of Ireland’s international jazz ambassadors and celtic jazz pioneers. Born in Dublin, Melanie comes from a dynasty of musicians and actors. Treading the boards from an early age as an actress and singer, she quickly became a multiple award-winning singer in Dublin’s Feis Ceol competitions.
Melanie had a precocious passion for jazz; by age 11, she was immersing herself in the rhythms and scat improvisations of Ella Fitzgerald as well as the music of other jazz giants such as Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. Closer to home, she discovered the Foxrock Folk Club, an oasis of local talent where she was introduced to Horslips, the Louis Stewart Trio, and the Chieftains, while discovering the Sean-Nós recordings of Seán O Ríada.
After having studied dramatic performance at the Brendan Smith Theater Academy Dublin, she finished with a Bachelor of Arts from University College Dublin. She then began her career as a professional musician, quickly building a reputation for herself as one of the rising stars of the international jazz firmament. It was in this early period of her career that Melanie began experimenting with the fusion of contemporary jazz with traditional Irish music. This new brand of Celtic jazz has become not only the trademark of Melanie’s style and career, but also has pushed the boundaries of jazz and launched her into a realm of her own.
Melanie tours extensively throughout the USA, Ireland, Scotland, England, France and other parts of Europe. Venues and festivals of note include Freight and Salvage CA, Edinburgh International. Festival Fringe, New York’s Cooper Union, the London Barbican, the L’orient Festival Inter-Celtique in Brittany, Musique d’Ici et D’Ailleurs in Chalons-en-Champagne, Cork International Jazz Festival, Andernos Festival Internationale France, Milwaukee Irish Festival, Chicago Heritage Center, Glasgow Concert Hall, and the Royal Festival Hall in London; a special highlight of her international work was performing at the Lincoln Center, New York.
Accolades for Melanie continue to pour in. Having been nominated for Best Contemporary Album and Best Contemporary Female Artist by Irish Music magazine for her album House of the Dolphins, in 2006 she was mentioned in Downbeat Magazine as one of Ireland’s foremost jazz ambassadors. Her concert with guitarist Larry Coryell at Dublin’s Green Room was noted as one of the top jazz concerts of the year by the Sunday Independent (Dublin). Additionally, the Rough Guide to Irish Music called Melanie’s work “Spellbinding… uplifting music from a true innovator;” while the Irish Times noted Melanie’s “breathtaking amazing emotional intensity… (and) sheer virtuosity.”
Melanie is a regular performer on the American radio networks and her albums are constantly given airplay by KPFA, KCSM, KKUP in California as well as BBC radio and TV , RTE Radio 1, Radio na Gaeltachta, Lyric FM, and French radio and TV.
Her music has been featured on the PBS Frontline/World documentary entitled “An Uneasy Peace“, directed by award-winning Niall McKay.
For the past 6 years, she has become known and respected as a radio presenter/producer in the world of radio broadcasting, creating a show called “Jazz on the Bay” for RTE Radio 1, Ireland’s National Broadcasting Station, in which she interviews American jazz musicians, listening to their life stories, their inspirations as well as their music. . Her interviews include luminaries such as Dave Brubeck, Clint Eastwood, Chick Corea, Marion Mc Partland, Cleo Laine & John Dankworth, Bobby McFerrin, David Benoit, Larry Coryell, Nancy Wilson, Mike Marshall, and Maria Muldaur. It has continually been picked as Critics Choice in the Irish media, and “Jazz on the Bay” won a PPI AWARD/National Radio Award for Music Specialist Program of the Year 2008. She is currently working on her fifth series which will be broadcast next year. on RTE Radio 1.
Having been Musician-in-Residence at the University of California Berkeley, Celtic Studies program for five years, she has now been awarded a US Performance Visa, for “extraordinary ability”, and currently resides in Berkeley, California. Her album “Dust and Blood” , which the Contra Costa Times called “…a gorgeous sound, ..celtic cadence with a jazz sensibility“, was released in Ireland, garnered much radio play, and is distributed by Claddagh Records Distribution. It will soon have its major release in the USA.
Melanie is currently working on 2 new albums, as well as developing further her creative project of “Jazz on a Summer’s Day: a Tribute to Anita O’Day”, which received a Four Star review at the recent Edinburgh International Fringe Festival, when she performed there in August 2011 to a packed house. ..”the show’s a celebration, and O’Reilly makes every number her own,.. sultry, soulful …scatty flurries in virtuoso style. …O’Reilly’s tribute to O’Day is the ideal soundtrack to a hot summer night.” Three Weeks/Unlimited Media
Melanie is also a committed music educator and is a well-known highly acclaimed vocal- performance instructor in California, and also presents seminars and courses in Irish song, and Celtic Jazz. She also regularly teaches song-writing courses at Dublin’s Walton’s New School of Music .
She is also on the Advisory Board of the Celtic Arts Center./An Chlaidheamh Soluis in Los Angeles.
She believes music and the Arts are of immense value to our society, and ultimately to our world .
“Spellbinding… uplifting music from a true innovator” Rough Guide to Irish Music
“Extraordinary … whether she sings Irish traditional, jazz or Jacques Prevert” Le Telegramme
“Breathtaking amazing emotional intensity .. sheer virtousity…” The Irish Times
“The Royal voice of Melanies O’Reilly has opened a new door; that of a celtic spirit always ready for new influences, an ancient spirit urgent to enrich itself…” Le Telegramme, France
“An outstanding night of jazz,” (review of Melanie’s performance with Larry Coryell, The Green Room, Dublin) … O’Reilly’s voice is exquisitely controlled and pure…an outstanding collection of songs” Alex Moffat, Irish Times
“A very special talent… I want to do everything I can to expose her beautiful artistry to the rest of the world.” Larry Coryell
“…O’Reilly makes every number her own, gliding effortlessly through rhythmic backbeats, …sultry,… soulful in virtuoso style” Edinburgh Fringe Fest./Unlimited Media
“her lithe and soulful vocals ……and a vivacious, scat-infused What Is This Thing Called Love, while O’Reilly endowed with poignancy and anguish the bittersweet blues of Angel Eyes.” Jim Gilchrist, The Scotsman
“…A wondrous mix of what this fine singer is all about – a deep passion for Irish Traditional music and Jazz…with O’Reilly’s voice weaving a spell…” Matt Nugent, Evening Herald
“The golden voice of Melanie O’Reilly … powerful … deeply moving” The Sunday Independent
“Melanie O’Reilly … a kind of priestess marrying traditional and jazz music…” Telefis na Gaeilge
“What better way to drift towards the dawning than in the company of the silky smooth voice of Melanie O’Reilly… her hauntingly beautiful and sensuous voice wooed the audience … close your eyes and you were in dreamland” Aberdeen Review
“A spiritual journey and a musical joy” The Big Issue
[of her live performances] “…her pitch was impeccable, her timing totally secure, her phrasing ineffably right. More than this, however, was perhaps the most essential gift of all – her ability to read a lyric with an innate sense of its dramatic demands and to serve these accordingly.” The Irish Times
“O’Reilly’s sensuous voice is the perfect vehicle for entwining jazz styles with Irish Celtic influences…” The Scotsman