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A set of nine standards and one original, Dream Dancing features the intimate trio of vocalist Melissa Stylianou, guitarist Gene Bertoncini and bassist Ike Sturm.
Sturm introduced Stylianou — one-third of the vocal trio Duchess — to veteran guitarist Gene Bertoncini (now 85) back in 2008, and the musical connection was immediate. The three have worked together in a variety of settings since, and their familiarity results in a strong comfort level, especially as they fly without a net on occasion during Dream Dancing.
Stylianou pays respect to vintage melodies and lyrics while engaging in subtle and swinging improvisation. On the opening “Sweet and Lovely,” her entrance in the upper register effectively contrasts the low notes played by Bertoncini and Sturm in the introduction. Here, as elsewhere, the instrumentalists are equal partners with the singer, creating stimulating and intuitive ideas that are never obvious even when in an accompanying role. No one coasts, even on slower numbers such as “My Ideal,” where Bertoncini’s playing, while keeping the melody in mind, is utterly unpredictable. The inclusion of the bridge from “The Man I Love,” during the singer’s second chorus, certainly surprises.
The trio’s repertoire includes a pair of straight-forward versions of Jobim tunes, ballads, bop and Bertoncini’s tribute to Chet Baker (“For Chet”), which features some wordless vocalizing. A couple of vocal-bass duets (including a freewheeling “It Could Happen to You”) and a Stylianou-Bertoncini feature on “My One and Only Love” provide variety. But more than the individual songs, it is the blend between voice, guitar and bass, and their constant interplay, that make this outing particularly memorable. — Scott Yanow https://open.spotify.com/album/0ZrNh2qwT99p1OWTtehjbn?si=GW9hpIJjRcCtOKxZpanUrA