Melissa Walker: I Saw the Sky
Canadian born Melissa Walker decided to break off law studies to become a barrister at the court of song, and wasn't that a bit of luck for us. On this her third Enja release, Walker proves conclusively that great standards need never when in the hands of an imaginative stylist able to restore their magic and glitter. Walker uses a variety of vocal modes and instrumental backup to deliver a set of special interpretations. A string quarter opens "Some Other Time" and then Walker startles with her pure soprano which starkly contrasts with the deep coloration of the strings. Continuing to find ways to use sidemen with ingenuity, they take a chorus on "The Face I Love" with Stefon Harris' vibes taking the lead. More contrast here as Walker wheels along in a much slower pace than that employed by Harris and cohorts as Walker intuitively works within and around the beat. Good stuff! "Let's Take an Old Fashioned Walk" reveals a debt to Sarah Vaughan, before Vaughan moved on to diva status with plummeting and plunging deliveries. But of all the tunes on the play list, it's a poignant and wishful thinking "I Get Along without You Very Well" where Walker gives a clinic on how to caress a lyric. Shunning dramatics, she employs gentleness, on the mark pitch and knowing phrasing to recite the story embedded in one of Hoagy Carmichael's finest compositions. Once more Harris' vibes provide the cushion that allows Walker to effortlessly glide through this lovely tune without excess emotional display. There is a smattering of lesser known and original material on the play list. One of the more expressive is "Return to Me", expressively arranged by Makoto Ozone, which gives Walker an opportunity to glide between soft and powerful regions of her vocal chords.
While such guest artists as Kenny Barron are a nice extra attraction, it's the steady rhythm section led by pianist/arranger Shedrick Mitchell that deserves the award for best supporting musicians.
Track Listing: I'm old Fashioned; Some Other Time; Nothing ever Changes My Love for You; My Shining Hour; I Saw the Sky; Twilight Song; I Get Along without You Very Well; Let's Take an old Fashioned Walk; The Face I Love; Return to Me; I'm in Love
Personnel: Melissa Walker - Vocal; Shedrick Mitchell, Kenny Barron, Makoto Ozone - Piano; Kiyoshi Kitagawa - Bass; Clarence Penn - drums; Stefon Harris - Vibes/Marimba; Vesselin Gellev, Deborah Bock - Violin; Olga Terlitsky - Viola; Ann Kim - Cello