MICHAEL DOHERTY’S MUSIC LOG
Melbreeze: “I Love Paris” (2021) CD Review
Melbreeeze is a jazz vocalist who has a talent for taking familiar material and giving it a new style, a new breath, a whole new life, and thus getting us excited about the songs all over again. On her new album, I Love Paris, she delivers excellent renditions of songs by Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Styne and Cahn, and others. Joining her on this release are Scott Kinsey on keyboards and Trilian bass (Kinsey also co-produced the album), Tim Hagans on trumpet, Pedro Martins on guitar, Yotam Silberstein on guitar, Hadrien Feraud on electric bass, Tim Lefebvre on bass, Gergő Borlai on drums, Gary Novak on drums, Brad Dutz on percussion, and Mer Sal on backing vocals, along with some guests on certain tracks.
The album opens with “Autumn Leaves,” a song written by Joseph Kosma, with English lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Melbreeze delivers an unusual and captivating rendition, with some surprising vocal play at the beginning, and a line delivered as spoken word as a sort of introduction. Melbreeze casts her spell on us with this opening track. There is a seductive quality to this rendition, and not just in her vocal performance. Tim Hagans’ work on trumpet likewise has a cool allure. Toward the end, there is some pretty work by Scott Kinsey on keys, and some vocal work that has an improvised feel, adding a certain sense of excitement to the track. That is followed by “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. This rendition has an odd beginning with that percussion and a sound that reminds me of a large ship’s horn (perhaps a nod to Anchors Aweigh, the film for which this song was written). Then the trumpet leads the way out of that introduction, and when the Melbreeze starts to sing, the song takes on a strong rhythm. It is the work on drums and percussion that dominates this track, seeming to determine its path, and at one point Melbreeze’s vocals have a percussive quality, the way she punctuates individual syllables, like she inhabits the land of this rhythm, and her vocals are her way of contributing to its landscape, and to take part in a sensual dance.
Melbreeze’s rendition of “Dat Dere” also makes interesting use of percussion. This is a playful number about a child asking a series of questions about the world, which at times can annoy the parent, the repeated question being a request for a big elephant the child sees in the distance. But the questions also make the parent see the world in a fresh way, as she tries to come up with the answers. “As life’s parade goes rushing by/She’ll need to know some reasons why/I don’t have all the answers/But I’ll try best that I can.” Pedro Martins adds a nice lead on guitar in the second half. That’s followed by “Sentimental Journey,” this version beginning with the sounds of a train. Then when it kicks in, Melbreeze’s voice is the focus. There is something completely lovely about this version; it has a cheerful sense about it. And I totally dig that lead on saxophone. That’s Doug Webb sitting in on this track. This song provides a delicious ride, and is one of my personal favorites. The sound of the train returns at the end.
Melbreeze then tackles Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain,” leading us into a cool, magical club. The percussion at times feels a bit busy, but this is a good version, and it features a wonderful guitar lead. Melbreeze’s vocal performance is rather playful at moments, which actually works well with the lyrics. That’s followed by the album’s title track, Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris.” Someday I will get to Europe and get to enjoy these places of song. Is there anyone on this planet who believes he or she wouldn’t love Paris? Anyway, as you’d expect by now, Melbreeze offers an unusual and exciting take on this beloved song. There is a spoken word section in the middle which has an improvised feel. Then we get a cool rendition of “My Funny Valentine,” featuring excellent work by Josh Smith, who plays guitar on this track, and by Travis Carlton, who plays bass. This track has a bit of swing to it.
The presence of cello on this version of “Yesterdays” gets me excited about this track soon after it starts. That is Artyom Manukyan on cello. The rhythm and the percussion are once again important elements. Melbreeze creates a vibrant space in these tracks, diving in and inhabiting the material. This track concludes with the cello, which I love. What a great moment. “Yesterdays” is followed by “Whatever Lola Wants,” here listed as “What Lola Wants.” I’ve always found this song kind of goofy, but I like that work on trumpet. And speaking of inhabiting the material, Melbreeze has particular fun in the role of Lola, the devil’s assistant. This album then concludes with “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” a song that was inspired by a Don McLean concert performance of “Empty Chairs,” and was a hit for Roberta Flack in 1973 (though I prefer the original version by Lori Lieberman). Melbreeze delivers a good rendition. It has a different vibe from those other versions, in part because of the percussion and the trumpet. I love that bass work by Hadrien Feraud, and this track makes interesting use of the backing vocals repeating the song’s title line.
CD Track List
- Autumn Leaves
- I Fall In Love Too Easily
- Date Dere
- Sentimental Journey
- Don’t Explain
- I Love Paris
- My Funny Valentine
- What Lola Wants
- Killing Me Softly With His Song
I Love Paris was released on January 22, 2021 on Blue Canoe Records.