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Winter Jazz Series 2016: Melissa Newman

January 06, 2017
Winter Jazz Series 2016: Melissa Newman

Tucked behind the Westport Playhouse, walking into The Dressing Room, the restaurant started by Paul Newman and Michel Nischan, is much like walking into a wonderful old barn. Under the garland of lights strung up outside, and into a cozy nest of dark wood, old theatrical posters, a roaring fireplace and, above the bar, a television that -- until Paul Newman's death -- played all of his movies, all of the time.

Replacing the busy hum of conversation every other Friday are the dulcet and lovely tones of a female jazz singer who, together with a guitarist, fills the room with her rich voice. Melissa Newman may chat in between songs, and has been known to shout out the score of a ball game, on occasion, for those who might have missed a good play.

Melissa grew up loving music, and singing. From her first album, Stevie Wonder's "Innervisions," to the entire collection of Joni Mitchell, she was always listening and, later, studying singing.

But not music. "I am Nightmare Girl Singer," she joked, referring to every jazz musician's nightmare, for she doesn't read music. Nor is she your typical movie star child, for she has no ego, and is, like her father, as down-to-earth as they come, preferring to fade into the background.

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