There are some vocalists whose vocals haunt you for days or weeks on end; those rare vocalists have a way of expressing ache and loneliness in a way that feels like a punch in the stomach. With a sultry, smoky vocal styling that reminds me quite a bit of Billie Holliday, the Belgian jazz vocalist Melanie De Biasio continues a long and storied line of exceptional vocalists rooted in the jazz tradition. Sadly, because a number of my colleagues aren’t super familiar with jazz and because the general music public is fickle (and at times, incredibly stupid), a vocalist like De Biasio will be on the margins, while less talented, less accomplished vocalists receive countless accolades. It’s both ironic and maddening; however, my hope and intentions are to correct some of that in incremental steps.
If you’ve been following JOVM, you may remember that I’ve written about De Biasio at length – but for those of you who may have missed it: The daughter of a Belgian mother and an Italian father, jazz vocalist Melanie De Biasio grew up in a household in which she was surrounded by music and art. By the time, De Biasio turned three, had started to take ballet classes, and by the time turned eight, she started to learn the flute; in fact, when De Biasio was 12, she was a member of the Ensemble de l’Harmonie de Charleroi, which toured across Canada for a month.
Like countless teenagers across the globe, a 15 year old De Biasio was a huge fan of grunge-era bands like Nirvana, and was in several rock bands before she decided that she should focus on jazz — and a result, De Biasio attended the Royal Conservatory of Brussels for formal vocal training, and was awarded a first prize with distinction degree. Upon graduation, she toured across Russia and while in Russia she ran into Steve Houben, a fellow Belgian jazz musician and saxophone professor at the Royal Conservatory, who invited De Biasio to perform with his band at a number of Belgian music festivals. Naturally, that kind of exposure led to De Biasio collaborating with a number of notable Belgian jazz musicians including Pascal Mohy, Michel Herr, Jan de Haas and Phllippe Aerts. Adding to a growing national profile, the Belgian jazz vocalist and flute player was nominated for a Young Talent Django d’Or award in 2006.
Melanie De Biasio’s debut full-length effort, A Stomach Is Burning was released in 2006 to critical praise across Europe; however, her sophomore effort, No Deal has received international attention as it was released to breathless praise from the likes of The Guardian, Mojo, and Record Collector. Album single, “I’m Gonna Leave You” had been a part of BBC Radio 6’s regular rotation last year and she had toured with the likes of Agnes Obel and EELS, who also championed her and her work. British radio personality Gilles Peterson also began to champion De Biasio.
Peterson, enlisted the assistance of a number of artists across the electronic music, indie music and jazz scenes to re-imagine and re-work songs from De Biasio’s acclaimed sophomore effort on an album titled Gilles Peterson Presents: Melanie De Biasio No Deal Remixed. The album’s second single is Clap! Clap!’s thorough and visionary reworking of “I’m Gonna Leave You.” The original song is a bluesy, lament that pairs De Biasio’s haunting vocals with the sort of slowly cascading and seemingly discordant piano chords that remind me of the legendary McCoy Tyner, subtly buzzing electronics and quick-paced drumming that belies the song’s slow-burning desperation. Lyrically, the song’s narrator is telling off a fickle and careless lover. “I’m gonna leave you,” De Biasio sings with a quiet yet forceful resolve, making it more than apparent that the song’s narrator has had enough.
The Clap! Clap! remix retains De Biasio’s smoky vocals, the slowly cascading piano chords and the song’s overall bluesy feel but much like the E remix, this remix pushes the tempo up, with a slickly produced, pulsing drum ‘n’ bass-styled backing sample. In some way, the remix give the song a muscular forcefulness behind the slick production.