Melbreeze (website) is a singer who was born and raised in Turkey but now lives in the United States, and she has certainly found a niche for herself in contemporary jazz. I Love Paris is the third Melbreeze album I’ve received over the last few years, and I wasn’t sure what to think of her when I reviewed Aminazonia back in July of 2018. I wrote: “Purists might balk at her adventurous choices, but there’s plenty of excitement in the way she pins down those old traditions and fleshes them out with modern techniques.” Nearly three years later, that seems like an apt description as well. But for some reason, I’m now getting it.
There’s a confidence in I Love Paris, one that brushes away any thoughts I once had about novelty or gimmickry. You need to listen to Melbreeze for a few minutes and then process what you’re hearing. This is a Turkish woman with strong roots and connections to Brazilian jazz, something I appreciated in Aminazonia, but her delivery is just on this side of Marlene Dietrich, droll and weary and above it all. I’m not going to guess at her age, but there’s a deepened tone that comes from living la dolce vita, a low growl of a vibrato that seems also like a distant echo. (It also helps that you can imagine her tongue resting in her cheek, especially when she starts dropping F-bombs in the title track.)
Melbreeze, taken by herself, is one perspective. Another is to listen to her cabaret sensibilities and to place them in modern, electronic surroundings. While these songs are jazz, deep at heart, they’ve been livened up with samples, programs and other touches from the land of electronica. (Don’t worry, there are plenty of traditional jazz performances to savor here–especially from keyboardist Scott Kinsey, her partner in this project.)
Why do I think that Melbreeze has found a niche with I Love Paris? Because I can imagine playing this at a party, without notice, and having one person after another approach me and ask me what we’re listening to. When I tell you the unique story behind the music, you’re going to like it, and then you’ll be messaging me the next day to remind you of the title. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s already adored by the martini set, or even if she’s been embraced by younger generations. We’ll just have to see, but I think it could happen.