“Three fine singers – Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou – join in swinging harmony to whip up music that traffics in delight. Referencing vocal icons from Peggy Lee to the Boswell Sisters, this fresh-voiced triumvirate plays it straight from the heart, leaving any trace of camp or postmodern irony at the door.”
– The New Yorker
A trio of vocal entertainers blending the classic and the contemporary, Duchess has charmed audiences far and wide with its beautiful musicianship and big fun. Or as the Wall Street Journal said: “They understand that swinging music goes hand in hand with an audacious sense of humor.” The New York-based threesome of Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou channel the inspiration of vintage jazz vocal trios into an entertaining package that’s utterly up-to-date, marked as it is by evergreen swing, sweet-toned harmonies and a stage presence that has proved irresistible to audiences from coast to coast, as well as across Canada and even in Israel. DownBeat dubbed the trio “a beacon of jovial esprit,” while New York City Jazz Record praised Duchess’s live performances for their “spot-on harmonies,” the singers “phrasing seamlessly like a big-band horn section.” Anzic Records released the trio’s second album, Laughing at Life, on Feb. 10, 2017, of which Downbeat Magazine said: “For a good time, call Duchess.”
Inspired from the start by virtuosic 1930s trio the Boswell Sisters, Duchess also presents the previously unrecorded “Dawn,” a mellifluous song co-written decades ago by Vet Boswell (youngest of the Boswell Sisters). As a big fan of Duchess and its updating of the Boswells sound, Vet’s granddaughter even sent the trio stage gloves worn by the sisters.
The Boswell Sisters, from New Orleans, made pioneering close-harmony records for Brunswick in the Thirties that remain a prize in the jazz canon. “The Boswell Sisters were such originals,” Gardner explains. “This kind of music got more conservative in the 1940s, with the Andrews Sisters taking the vocal trio format more mainstream, even though they were swinging and super-tight in their own way. But the Boswell Sisters had a kind of instrumental approach to harmony singing, and there was a wildness to what they did, with abrupt tempo changes, crazy harmonies and ensemble scatting as if they were singing from one brain. We love them. That said, we’re not doing re-creations at all. Our voices, personalities and 21st-century sensibilities help impart individuality to what we’re doing. We’re making these songs our own, naturally.”
Special thanks to our sponsors, Van Engelenhoven Agency and Northwestern Bank, for making this event possible.