by Rob Lester
The most famous and inevitable song that comes to mind for Valentine’s Day is also one of the most voluminously recorded standards of all; “My Funny Valentine” was introduced in the Richard Rodgers/ Lorenz Hart score for Babes in Arms back in 1937, sung to a character named Valentine. Melbreeze sings it and many other familiar numbers on her newest collection, although she and her skilled musicians don’t often approach them in familiar ways. And please understand: That is an understatement indeed!
The risk-taking I Love Paris will have its cheering champions, reveling in its irreverent posturing that can push the proverbial envelope and push listeners into a film noir landscape. Instrumental flourishes may resemble sound effects (or substitute for them, as in the chugging train present for “Sentimental Journey”). Drenched in atmosphere therein, the original bones of a song risk being a mere reference point, with a melody’s note values re-categorized as “optional,” and lyrics or expected moods and tempi sometimes fair game for wholesale change. I’m often a big fan of respectful revamping instead of rehashing to let a well-established warhorse find a new identity. Of course, there’s a difference between decorating and desecrating. And it’s a slippery slope from thinking outside the box to a Pandora’s box of wild thoughts let loose to wreak havoc.
In pronouncing some sounds, the accent of this Turkish-born lady may be charming or distancing on this, her tenth release (her second on an American label). Sustaining notes is not prominent in her priorities, and her husky vocals can resemble muttering—with some words or lines spoken for effect.
Melbreeze, who calls herself a “storyteller,” can repurpose, embellish, and add to material. The most dramatic case of her surprising dramatizing is with the high jinks and highjack of Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris” from Can-Can. She liberally mixes in brash dialogue, searching for her missing lover (“Come on, baby, where are you? Show yourself to meeeeeeee! … He must be here …”), and inserting the F-word into the classy lyric (and again, in a spoken aside).
A favored tone—sultriness—makes the Damn Yankees solo for a seductress, “Whatever Lola Wants,” type-casting. (Although incorrectly listed as “What Lola Wants,” Melbreeze does sing the correct word.) The unpredictable colleagues are restrained with a pop hit that is the youngest of the oldies (though it first appeared almost half a century ago!), “Killing Me Softly with His Song.” This tale of how a singer’s performance can affect a listener always seems newly relevant. Certainly, Melbreeze and her I Love Paris will get reactions, too.