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Torch songstress has soul

As odd jobs go, there probably aren’t that many people out there putting "torch songstress" on their resumes.

What’s a torch songstress? "A torch songstress is really when the song — usually a ballad — is delivered in a way that is powerful and passionate," says Melanie Massell, who plies the trade locally. "It’s sung from the soul."

When Massell launches into a rendition of Billie Holiday’s "God Bless the Child," one sees what she means.

The Perico Bay Club resident moved to the area from Atlanta over thethis past summer. A lifelong singer, the bubbly redhead got her start covering new wave and Top 40 performers.

But, in a roundabout way, a backpacking trip in Australia got her into the jazz genre and torch singing.

"I was actually touring Australia for six months, and my dad didn't think I was every coming back," she says. "He landed me a house gig singing jazz. He worked with a talent agency in Atlanta and said, 'We need to get my daughter back in the States.' ”

While performing in Atlanta, Massell surrounded herself with jazz musicians and tried to learn as much as she could about that form of music.

"I went from a Top 40 singer to a jazz singer and didn't know anything about jazz at the time," she said.

For her act, Massell draws from artists like Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

She describes her act as part cabaret, part Broadway.

"I'm a theater major from Florida State, and it was right up my alley," she says.

Massell doesn't limit herself to torch singing. She's capable of providing what her clients want.

"I've got a lot of soul, I've got a lot of country in me," Massell says. "I used to do a Reba McEntireIntyre impersonation show. You just do what people need to do to make them forget their troubles. I'll sing '"Brick House'" with the best of them at a wedding if that's what the bride really wants."

Massell's music has been featured on a number of CD recordings, and she also released a Christmas CD called "Season's Greetings from Melanie Massell."

Massell also runs an entertainment agency called MMMusic that seeks performers for local events.

"We cater to corporate parties, weddings, special events and private fundraisers," Massell says.

Currently, Massell is performsing at various restaurants and clubs around the area. Sunday she will be performing at Mattison's Steakhouse at the Plaza, 525 Bay Isles Parkway.

"I've been singing here and there to get my name heard," Massell says. "Here, as I'm developing my business, I am starting all over."

To contact Massell, call (941) 761-4623, or visit www.mmmusic.net.

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