Radar: Listen to Duchess, 'Laughing At Life'

Feb 3, 2017

What they sing is harder than it sounds. Much harder. And always swinging. When the three singers of Duchess — Amy Cervini, Melissa Stylianou, Hilary Gardner — sing in the style and spirit of the Boswell Sisters, the harmonizing trio from New Orleans, popular especially on the radio in the 30’s, they articulate each note of the melody, each word of the lyric, often almost supersonically. Really, really, really fast! And in perfect harmony! And having a helluva lotta fun!

All three have been around for a while. All three have recorded albums played in recent years on WBGO.  Amy’s “digging me, digging you,” her tribute to Blossom Dearie. Melissa’s “No Regrets,” hip twists on standards all across the songbooks. Hilary’s “The Great City,” a celebration of songs metropolitan. And now comes their second trio album, Laughing at Life, new on Anzic.

They sing standards: “Sunny Side of the Street,” “Stars Fell on Alabama,” Cole Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” and a Billie Holiday favorite, the title song “Laughing at Life.” They sing songs not as familiar but by some of the same masters: Cole Porter’s “Give Him The Oo La La,” Johnny Mercer’s “Strip Polka,” and a Sinatra favorite, “Here’s to the Losers.” Duchess sings Duke, “Creole Love Call” with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon joining in, and clarinetist Anat Cohen plays on the Boswell favorite of “Everybody Loves My Baby.” Duchess often performs at the 55 Bar, and they’ll be singing an unusual 4-night stand there February 22-25.