Michelle Walker: Slow Down (2001)
Born in Germany, song stylist Michelle Walker now lives and performs in the Washington. D. C. area. Although the play list has a couple of less familiar tunes, including a Walker original, for her first album she has chosen to stay with selections from the standard repertoire. Showing influences of Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson and even Rose Murphy, Walker possesses a set of strong vocal chords which she uses with remarkable restraint. Even though it's obvious that she has the physical equipment to belt out everything she sings, she has wisely chosen to be restrained, using her vocal powers like a small hand gun rather than as a howitzer. She also demonstrates an extraordinary degree of musicality as she adds subtle alterations to melody lines, going up when one expects her to go down and other ear catching devices. Walker has a penchant for working in and around the beat as on "Time after Time". Another mannerism that bodes well for Walker's future as a jazz singer is the ability to avoid over playing emoting card. She applies just the right amount of personal investment necessary to enhance the tune she is performing. "Nature Boy" is sincere without turning saccharine. A track certain to attract attention is "East of the Sun" where Walker sits atop a Latin beat and Wayne Wilentz's on the mark comping on piano. Just when you begin to think that another version of "Summertime" would indeed be superfluous, along comes a singer like Walker who ordains this tune with a freshness which more than justifies another listen. Here, as well as on virtually every track, Walker's superb backup musicians get an opportunity to stretch out. Dave Cosby's guitar is particularly prominent on this cut and Justin Lees brandishes a mean axe on "Sometimes I'm Happy". Marc Blackwood and Jim West on bass and drums serve the session well with their timely intervention and steady time keeping.
Slow Down is a commendable maiden CD and is heartily recommended. Visit Michelle at www.dcjazz.com/michelle walker.
Track Listing: Nature Boy; Be My Baby; Pennies from Heaven*; East of the Sun; The Very Thought of You; Sometimes I'm Happy*; Summertime; Straighten up and Fly Right; Kiss of Life; Daddy; Slow Down; Your Song; Time after Time; Crazy He Calls Me; On the Sunny Side of the Street
Personnel: Michelle Walker - Vocal; Wayne Wilentz - Piano; Dave Cosby, Justin Lees* - Guitar; Marc Blackwood - Bass; Jim West - Drums