Jazz singer Melissa Stylianou has been turning heads and capturing hearts since the turn of the century, from her native Toronto to her adopted home of New York City, from intimate club residencies to top festival stages. She has won fans far and wide with her recording projects, along with praise from such outlets as the jazz bible Downbeat – which called her “a gifted composer and an appealing singer” and, moreover, “an original.” Stylianou’s newest album – Silent Movie, her fourth disc and first for the New York-based Anzic Records – is an evolutionary step, with Stylianou presenting her fresh takes on beloved jazz standards and left-field songs from Johnny Cash to Joanna Newsom, backed by a collective of top musicians from the New York scene. Stylianou has long put her own lyrics to the music of celebrated composers; on Silent Movie, she breathes fresh emotional life into instrumental pieces by Edgar Meyer and Vince Mendoza. As ever, her singing is a joy, reinforcing the description by Grammy-nominated pianist Fred Hersch, who says: “Melissa Stylianou has it all – a gorgeous instrument, superb musicianship and great taste.”
After making a name with standards on her 1999 debut album, It Never Entered My Mind, Stylianou showed a flair for expanding the jazz songbook. Her 2001 release, Bachelorette, juxtaposed tunes by Thelonious Monk and Fats Waller with the Björk title track and songs by Sting and Tom Waits – all delivered with the singer’s signature charm and musicality. NW Jazz Profile aptly described Stylianou as “inventive in her phrasing and pure in sound.” Sliding Down, her rhythmically sophisticated 2006 album, featured another rich blend of the classic and the contemporary, with “Them There Eyes” and the Beatles’ “Blackbird” set alongside striking original tunes. JazzTimes magazine was impressed: “An exotically sultry `All of You’ and a gorgeously dreamy `That Ole Devil Called Love’ make her a standards-bearer worth watching. But it is Stylianou’s artfully imagined originals, ranging from the down-home zest of `Mary's in the Tub’ to the emotional wreckage of the title track, that shift her from engaging to captivating.”
At the 55 Bar in Manhattan’s West Village – where Stylianou has had a residency since 2008 – the singer explores new material with her group featuring pianist Jamie Reynolds and guitarist Pete McCann. For the past two years, Stylianou has also been a member of Ike Sturm’s ensemble, singing original jazz settings of sacred music at St. Peter’s Church in Manhattan. Underscoring her more venturesome, improvisational side, she is the featured vocalist with Gregg Bendian’s Mahavishnu Project, dedicated to performing the music of John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Stylianou earned three nominations as Jazz Vocalist of the Year at the National Jazz Awards of Canada (2003, 2004, 2006), as well as a nomination as Composer of the Year (2006). She has headlined clubs, concert halls and major jazz festivals across her home country, from Toronto and Montreal to Halifax and Manitoba. In New York, she has sung at Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space, Blue Note, Birdland and the Jazz Standard, as well as the 55 Bar, Smoke, Sweet Rhythm, Iridium, Cutting Room and the Cornelia Street Café. Stylianou teaches Music Together classes to young children, as well as voice at the 92nd Street Y.