Melanie De Biasio ‘Lilies’ LP/CD/DIG (Le Label) 4/5

A native of francophone Charleroi in Belgium, singer-songwriter Melanie Di Biasio emerged on the scene three years ago with a highly original debut, ‘No deal’, and followed this up with an equally well received EP/mini album in, ‘Blackened cities’. She returns with her long-term collaborators for a sumptuous album that effortlessly combines jazz, blues and electronica, yet is instantly recognizable as her own voice. If the influence of both Billie Holiday and especially Nina Simone still permeates her stratosphere, the outstanding production and quality of the songs are all her own. Little wonder DJ’s such as Gilles Peterson have been singing her praises and rightly so. Classically trained, the mood that dominates this new recording is altogether bleaker, yet is still highly enjoyable for all that.

On the title track, it is old-school jazz that is creatively evoked and there is both an awareness of and deep respect for the jazz tradition. Minimalist piano, vocals and electronica all combine on, ‘Your freedom is the end of me’, while the early blues of field hollers is wonderfully conjured up on, ‘Sitting in the stairwell’, complete with appropriate blues vocals and handclaps. Twenty-first century modern updates on jazz standards is a highlight of, ‘Afro blue’. Whereas, one might have expected an uptempo Latin-jazz reading, here the subtle use of electronica and restrained vocals take the tempo all the way down and this provides a highly entertaining and richer interpretation of the song and a fine and distinctive alternative to the 1974 Dee Dee Bridgewater interpretation that is rightly held in such high esteem. In fact, the nearest this album gets to uptempo is on, ‘Let me love you’, which has a percussive intro, but an ice-cold vocal delivery that is behind the beat and this created the feeling of being on a dark, yet atmospheric journey of discovery. Metronome beats coupled with what sounds like an accordion and whispered vocals by Di Biasio greet the listener on, ‘All my worlds’, another brooding number.

At just under forty minutes, Melanie Di Biasio simply does not offer her craft in large quantity, but that is more than made up by the unrivaled quality of the final product. That includes the luxurious gatefold sleeve and inner sleeve black and white photos that would not be out of place in a special edition of Vogue Paris.

Tim Stenhouse