Late at night is a good time to listen to Melissa Sullivan’s new album, Late Last Night, set for release June 26, preferably in a richly-paneled, near-empty cocktail bar while you sip a scotch and smoke a cigarette alone with your memories. Her voice evokes memories – yours sometimes, imaginary ones at other times, even cinematic memories of scenes in movies that have stuck with you and defined your vision of love. Late Last Night is smooth, sweet, mature, ranging from cocktail bar smokey to clear as an evening sunset. It gets under your skin and into your gut.
The ten songs on Late Last Night are individual jewels, each cut to facet a different quality of light, but glowing with an internal warmth – not fire, but warmth – that soothes your soul as it illuminates your memory of loves sought and lost, of loves that clicked and then faded, of loves that might have been. Not quite melancholy, Sullivan manages to conjure real and imagined memories like the smoke curing up from the cigarette next to the glass of scotch on the bar.
Late Last Night is a enchanting blend of jazz, pop, folk and blues. Recorded at Sir Tiger Studios in Culver City, CA, and co-produced by Sullivan and Will Golden, Edward Maxwell (also upright bass) and piano player Peter Adams who arranged the music, it shows her skill not only in songwriting and performing, but in assembling a team that perfectly matches her voice and her ability to deliver in diverse styles. Sylvain Carton (Bb and bass clarinet, baritone sax), Blair Sinta (drums), Chris Steele (drums, percussion), Noah Hoffeld (cello), Leah Paul (flute), Felipe Frago (cucia), Raelon Bolton and Rafael Saliba (back-up vocals) provided the rich music that frames and sets off her beguiling voice.
Sullivan chose songs for Late Last Night that range from her own compositions of intense emptions like “Sirens”, to covers of standards like Hoagy Carmichael ‘s “Skylark” and Percy Mayfield’s “Lost Mind”, to the bossa-tinged duet “Borders/Fronteras” that makes you sway while you remember. I was especially drawn to “Adrian” which conjured an image of standing alone on a deserted train platform on a foggy London night waiting for someone who never comes, a love found and then lost.
Sullivan draws from a rich life of experience. An Air Force daughter who moved as a child from Wichita Falls, Texas, to Naha, Okinawa, Japan, and now lives in LA, she originally studied theater at that city’s prestigious California Institute of the Arts and the Actors Studio. She entered the entertainment world through film & television including parts in Shameless, Hawthorne, and E.R. On the live stage she won the Los Angeles Ticket Holders Best Supporting Actress award for her role as Stella in A Streetcar named Desire at the Odyssey Theater’s Mainstage.
For me it is Melissa Sullivan’s music that resonates so deeply. Late Last Night is what we all need – gentle, seductive, interior — a gift of feeling and intimacy so rarely found in modern life.
Late Last Night will be released June 26