Infusing smooth jazz with latin, pop, funk and soul and influenced by her gospel music background, talented singer-songwriter-entertainer, Joanna Melas, has now released her debut album 'A Natural Selection' featuring her three new originals, 'Danca Da Chuva', 'We Had No Cares' and 'Such As These' plus seven cleverly arranged covers.
The variety of tunes alone on this album will convince anyone of her ability to adapt. From the dance floor of 'Danca Da Chuva' and 'We Had No Cares' (originals by Joanna) to the smoky jazz club in 'The Look of Love', to the hauntingly beautiful spiritual folk tune 'Such as These' (another original by Joanna), the heart stopping brassy shuffle of 'Fly Too High' and the straight blues/rock of 'First We Take Manhattan' - Joanna eases through this 'A Natural Selection' with poise and flair. With a beautiful blend of passion, excitement and technical brilliance her rich soulful voice soars effortlessly over complex and mature arrangements transporting you from one song to the next on a journey of musical landscapes. If this first offering is anything to go by, buyers will be eagerly awaiting any future recording by Joanna Melas.
Having cultivated a successful career as an accomplished singer and entertainer, one of the busiest on the Sydney circuit, Joanna arrived at the recording studio with plans to release an album of the covers most requested at her gigs. However working on the album unleashed the songwriter within and Joanna revisited some of her earlier compositions, including Such As These. Creative energies taking over, she was inspired to write again and Joanna wrote Danca da Chuva and We Had No Cares.
Recording took place over three months, with around 113 hours spent at Style Music Studios in The Hunter Valley. Programming and mixing by the very gifted Phil Tweed. Guitars were played by Phil Tweed, Dieter Kleemann and Joanna Melas. Phil also played piano, keys, bass, drums and percussion. Craig Walters was on tenor saxaphone, Stewart Kirwan on muted trumpet and flugelhorn, Leigh Sherringham on trombone.
Each track was co-produced and co-arranged by Joanna and Phil and then mastered by Oscar Gaona at Studios 301 in Sydney.
Zack Daggy (Music Journalist) writes:
“Joanna Melas is a singer with a voice that is made for the stage. Her album A Natural Selection features an eclectic collection of stage favorites and originals. The sounds range from Latin beats to a sweet serenades, from reggae rhythms to sultry blues. There is something for everyone on this album. It is a vacation for the ears.
First and foremost, Melas’s voice is utterly amazing. With her cover of the song “Love Letters,” her vocals are as smooth as velvet. It’s sexy, it’s sultry and most of all it’s captivating. Melas radiates with charisma. To be a great singer on stage, it takes more than just hitting all the right notes. To use a cliché, you have to have “it,” and Melas definitely has it! Just give one listening to her original song “We Had No Cares” and you will see. Its Latin flair and Melas’s rich vocals complement each other beautifully. It has the perfect blend of relaxing melodies and energizing rhythms. Her song “Danca Da Chuva” could very well be described the same. Melas seems the most in her element when singing songs that are rich with a Latin influence. In fact, Melas at times sounds quite a bit like Gloria Estefan. She has the same instant likability. She is a star in the making.
Since the majority of this album is cover songs, arrangement is everything. While most of the songs remain relatively close to their classic arrangements, it is the bold compositions that truly stand out. In particular, Melas’s reggae version of the Frankie Valli classic “Can't Take My Eyes Off You,” comes off as sublime. The reggae influence adds an interesting island vibe to the song. This in turn establishes an immensely romantic and intimate connection with the listener. Indeed, if there is one emotion that A Natural Selection exudes, it is romance. Tracks like “The Look Of Love” and “Love Letters” are perfect for sitting in front of a fireplace and sipping wine with that special someone. Joanna Melas is the sound of love.
Perhaps the only disappointment with A Natural Selection is that there is far too many cover songs on this album. Melas does an excellent job with performing every one of these covers, but it feels like she has so much more to offer. Her original tracks “Danca Da Chuva” and “We Had No Cares” are by far the best tracks on this album…
Tracks like “Break In The Weather” feature a soulful and thoroughly enjoyable saxophone solo. Others like “First We Take Manhattan” showcase some extraordinary blues guitar riffs. There is no denying that this album features some stunning instrumentation…
A Natural Selection is a solid album with songs of romance and pure emotion. Joanna Melas has a smooth yet powerful voice that demands attention… this is an album worth checking out.”
Matthew Warnock (Music Journalist) writes:
Artists such as Sade, Sting and Michael Bolton are great examples of musicians who choose to bring multiple musical styles and backgrounds together, producing a sound that was unique and that had a broader appeal than some of their more specifically focused contemporaries. Australian vocalist and songwriter-arranger Joanna Melas is an artist that firmly fits into this second category of performer, and her album A Natural Selection, is a collection of pop, jazz, Latin and R&B influenced songs that blur the lines of musical genre, while at the same time maintaining a strong sense of musicality and high level of performance that connects each distinctive musical output.
The album contains three original compositions and seven covers of well-known pop and jazz songs arranged by Melas and her musical partner Phil Tweed. The originals are well-written, and each contains a distinctive sound that brings to light different aspects of Melas’ musical tastes. “Danca Da Chuva,” which means “Rain Dance” in Portuguese, contains Latin inspired beats and a soft, joyful melody line that outlines the song’s lyrics in a way that is both engaging and enjoyable at the same time. The verse sections will remind listeners of the Columbian songstress Shakira, though when the chorus breaks in, the smoothness of the vocal line is purely Melas. This is the reason the song is successful, and the album as a whole, that Melas is able to bring an element of the familiar to her music, while injecting enough personality to make the album stand out among the crowded musical marketplace.
The next original composition is “We Had No Cares,” which is also Latin influenced, but this time with a quasi-Montuno beat that reminds one of a Cuban beach on a hot summer’s day. The hand percussion also adds an extra level of musical interest that raises the song from a typical Latin work to a song that stands on its own two feet. As well, “Such as These,” contains more of a pop vibe, with some enchanting vocal harmonies that really enhance the listener’s experience of this piece. The song could have easily been solid without the added voices, but by added the extra thickness to the ends of certain phrases, the melody and lyrics really spring to life, something that one will appreciate, that extra musical mile that makes all the difference with a song such as this.
Besides the original compositions, the album contains creative and enjoyable versions of pop and jazz standards such as “First We Take Manhattan,” “The Look of Love” and “For All We know.” As with the originals, Melas and Tweed inject their musical personalities into each arrangement, justifying their song choices and providing a new listening experience for people who are familiar with this 20th century classics. Overall, A Natural Selection is a strong effort from Melas, one that blends tradition with her own personality in an enjoyable mixture of new and old that can appeal to a broad range of musical tastes and backgrounds.”
Joanna is regularly sought out by venues, agents and other musicians. She has also been contracted for many corporate events, cruise liners, weddings and has the rare distinction of having performed daily at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Joanna, the youngest of five children, grew up in Bondi Sydney in a musical household with her father playing the mandolin and her mother singing - Joanna seemed destined to pursue a career in music.
During her school and college years, Joanna excelled in art, taught herself guitar and piano, studied acting and singing, and performed in The Sydney Philharmonia Choir for a year before moving to the USA to study at Heritage School of Evangelism and Communication in Charlotte North Carolina where she toured in a gospel music group and appeared on national television.
Back in Sydney, due to both parents falling ill, Joanna was invited to be music director of a church, where for five years, she used her talents in the area of inspirational/worship music and outreach programs, touching the lives of many.
Over the following years Joanna developed an extensive repertoire of timeless covers, performed numerous shows in live bands and as a solo artist across Australia and New Zealand, as well as co-writing songs and recording for others.
With the gift of transforming a song into a mood and a message, and a voice you can listen to for hours, Joanna has the capacity to steal hearts and garner a following of diverse and loyal fans.