Reviewers Say...

A CD Review by Floyd Levin


(1) I've Had My Moments; (2) Song of the Wanderer; (3) The You and Me That Used to Be; (4) Old Fashioned Love; (5) Meet Me Where They Play the Blues; (6} Nevertheless I'm in Love With You; (7) On a Coconut Island; (8) Warm Valley; (9) When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful; (10) Street of Dreams; (11) I'll See You in My Dreams; (12) Stardust; (13) Why Don't We Do This More Often?; (14) Back in Your Own Backyard (62:13)

Melissa Collard (vo); Dan Barrett (co/tb); Bill Bardin, Bob Mielke, (tb) Richard Hadlock (reeds); Ray Landberg (vi); Ray Skjelbred (p); Steven Strauss, (b); Eddie Erickson (gu/bj/uk/vo/) Bob Wilson, Bobby Black (gu), Berkeley, California April 9 & 10, 2004 (Melismatic Recordings - MR CD101)

Available @$15.00 + $3.00 S&H From: Melismatic Records, Box 19024, Sacramento CA 95819-0024

Although Melissa Collard has been a professional singer for many years, her name might not be familiar to some Classic Jazz fans - but, when they hear this, the lady's first CD, her considerable vocal skills will become vividly apparent. 

Those skills are enhanced by her choice of material, an excellent assembly of eleven empathetic sidemen, and an array of brilliant arrangements designed to frame her mood and style. 

Melissa has selected a fresh batch of superb songs for this CD. Some are tunes you probably have not heard in a long time, and some that you might never have heard before. The CD's song list is a compelling reminder of leading pop lyricists' skillful way with words - like Gus Kahn ("I've Had My Moments" and "I'll See You in My Dreams"), Bert Kalmar ("Nevertheless I'm in Love With You"), Mitchell Parish ("Stardust"), etc. Melissa, capably handling the musical and emotional elements of these songs, depicts the meaningful lyrics with great perception. 

Each number, in its own way, is a love song as indicated in the CD's title. They depict ever-lasting love ("Old Fashioned Love"), lost love ("The You and Me That Used to Be"), anticipated love ("Meet Me Where They Play the Blues"), sensual love ("Warm Valley"), etc. Melissa, favoring the verses, sings every song with deceptive ease, and creates soft phrases that accurately underscore the intent of the composers and lyricists. 

In her cogent CD notes, she fondly acknowledges her accompanying musicians -her "dream team." Trombonists Bill Bardin and Bob Mielke, pianist Ray Skjelbred, and multi-instrumentalist reedman Richard Hadlock were featured members of Dick Oxtot's Golden Age Jazz Band. 

While attending college in the mid-'70s, at Berkeley, California, Melissa was hired to play guitar and sing with that legendary band, and she happily included those colleagues on this record date. The acclaimed veteran Bay Area jazzmen display their merits individually and collectively on every selection. 

Featured guests, Eddie Erickson and Dan Barrett, are welcomed additions. Erickson, nimbly switching from guitar to banjo to ukulele, endows every number with his tasteful individuality. His intimate vocal duet with Melissa on "Why Don't We Do This More Often?" ranks among the CD's many highlights. 

Musical Director Barrett provides his expected magic on trombone and cornet. He has also deftly created most of these expressive arrangements which are reminiscent of Teddy Wilson's insightful backing that introduced Billie Holiday to the world in the '30s. 

Barrett's arrangements cushion the music with a subtle dramatic lilt, and, where warranted, utilize an occasional ploy that offers tonal embellishment and vocal support. For example: his mellow trombone choir (Barrett, with Bill Bardin, and Bob Mielke) adds style and substance to "Street of Dreams." On "Meet Me Where They Play the Blues," a stop-time pulsation provides the arrangement with subtle emphasis. Even the venerable "Stardust" appears in a distinctive conception. 

Bob Wilson and Eddie Erickson's arrangement of Isham Jones' "I'll See You in My Dreams" is a salute to the great French guitarist, Django Reinhardt, who recorded the tune in 1939. This is a specially assembled string section - Wilson on his Selmar guitar (Reinhardt's favorite instrument), Erickson on his Heritage archtop guitar, co-producer Ray Lansberg on violin, and Steven Strauss' string bass staunchly supporting the riffing tribute. Django would have loved this! "

On a Coconut Island" features the only appearance of steel guitarist Bobby Black adding appropriate Polynesian sounds to the song Louis Armstrong recorded with a Hawaiian band almost six decades ago. 

Melissa told me that each number relates specifically to an event in her life. She said, "My CD has a theme of reminiscing and ruminating over changes in our lives, and how we come to terms with those events." 

She currently is the guitarist-singer with the Fulton Street Jazz Band in Sacramento, California. Watch for her on the festival circuit with this very popular group. 

Remember the name - Melissa Collard!


Copyright 2005 Melissa Collard