Brooklyn-born, musically-led and classically trained, Melanie Charles is an artist that doesn't perform jazz as much as she literally exudes it: combining the time-tested approach of earlier, influential icons (Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn) with contemporary edges of funk and soul isn't as easy as it sounds, but the singer and songwriter does so with aplomb on this masterful and mesmerizing debut.
Although it's a relatively short collection of tracks (five are full-length and three are interludes), Introducing..... makes immediate use of a spirited set of musicians and their seasoned, soulful vocalist, who dwells comfortably in the worlds of rhythm and blues and jazz. Some songs characterize traditional-sounding jazz, such as the scatting, horn play and improvised feel of "My Love" and the nearly-a capella "Mel + O's Vibe Interlude," while others have a more contemporary feel, as demonstrated in the glib optimism of "Make You Stay" and "Familiar," where her vocals echo and float to create a downright celestial feel. There's even an element or two of hip-hop, thanks to the patchwork style of "Telephone Interlude Pt. 1." Depending on the tastes of the listener, it's either a titillating beginning or a mercifully short diversion from the status quo.
Ms. Charles' supple tenor, which has allowed her to work with Michael Jackson, Wynton Marsalis and presently, Laura Izibor, can convey any emotion from glib optimism to languid, lonely, longing. All of the tracks are enjoyable, but if there had to be favorite picked, it would be "Need You": featuring Ras Sherman, the song combines her delectable range with Mr. Sherman's pleasant patois and makes sure that folks will stick around for whatever this crew's intriguing (yet too brief) introduction brings next.
By Melody Charles