MAKING A SCENE
Melbreeze, Amethyst, MCC
by Jim Hynes
This is the second release for avant-garde vocalist Melbreeze, following the success of her last year’s largely Latin Animazonia. This writer is usually not interested in an album of covers, especially one that hits so many familiar tunes but Melbreeze’s approach is just so refreshingly different that it merits some commentary. First of all, the name Melbreeze must be a moniker and perhaps it is but suffice it to know that the Turkish-born vocalist now resides in L.A. and has already stamped herself as a trailblazer, her purple hair symbolic of her independent streak and reflective of amethyst quartz, which Greek legend labels “intoxicate,” protecting its owner from drunkenness.
Again she turned to her collaborator, founder and former Yellow Jacket, bassist Jimmy Haslip for production and keyboardist Scott Kinsey for these imaginative arrangements, this time for the Great American Songbook and familiar pop tunes. They are joined by a forward-thinking group of L.A. players, some of whom played on her last album. They are drummer Gary Novak, percussionist and background vocalist Arto Tuncboyaciyan, electric guitarists James Zota Baker, Oz Noy and Jeff Richman; pedal steel guitarist Doug Livingston, percussionist Brad Dutz, EVI player Judd Miller, saxophonist and clarinetist Bob Reynolds, and background vocalist Naina Kundu.
She and the band transform such recognizable fare into magical interpretations from “Summertime” to “The Sound of Silence” to “God Bless the Child” to “Greensleeves” and Leonard’s Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with several others as well. It’s a percussive, jazz fusion sound marked by Fender Rhodes, chiming electric guitars, and creative vocal harmonies. There are several economic solos that branch off the melodies. If one were to tune in mid-song, it would be difficult to necessarily name the tune. At first, given the sacred nature of some of these tunes, it could put a listener off but the re-imagining, especially after a few listens, is not only admirable but compelling.
Melbreeze was born in the historic port of Smyrna, Turkey; home to historic Greek and Roman settlements. As an only child, she grew up in a house where music was often played, drawing her to music and art at an early age. So, she brings an international outlook and continued thirst for education and growth to her projects. Get prepared for a unique sound. It’s just more proof that great songs can lend themselves to highly creative interpretations. This apparently marks a new series of music from Melbreeze. We can look forward to more of …no, not the same, something out of the box. She wouldn’t have it any other way.