Hazel Walker is a relative newcomer to the Canadian jazz scene. Born in Halifax, she first performed as a youngster on local radio. Now residing in Toronto, Walker enjoys a high degree of popularity and has performed at some of the city's top jazz venues including the prestigious Montreal Bistro and the Downtown Jazz Festival. A recent concert was recorded by JAZZ FM91 as part of their ongoing Sound of Toronto Jazz Series
. JAZZ FM91 is heard across Canada on national satellite networks.
Hazel Walker's popularity is not without good cause and her CD is superb. Backed by an octet including the cream of Canadian jazz instrumentalists, the singer dishes out a delicious menu of standards and lesser known delicacies. The title tune, I Have Dreamed
isn't an easy piece for any singer and was tackled in the past by the likes of Sinatra and Streisand. Ably assisted by her group, Walker's version of the show-tune is captivating , swinging and convincing. The hard-swinging efforts of Dickinson, Swainson and Elmes enhance Hazel's enviable scat style. Veteran trumpet star, Guido Basso, shows up with a harmonica in hand on Willow Weep For Me
. This singer has the rare ability to render a torch song with authority and does exactly that on this album.
With obvious good taste, Walker has chosen her material carefully. Tunes by Rogers & Hammerstein, Billy Strayhorn, Hoagy Carmichael and Thelonious Monk are featured but new items are not forgotten. Arranger, Graham Howes, contributed a song titled Firefly
and accompanies the singer on piano. The tune is a winner and a highlight of the album. Hopefully, Graham Howes will continue to provide us songs of this quality. It was nice to hear another gem in the form of Bronislaw Kaper's beautiful Invitation
. The piece was handled with sensitivity and shows Hazel's perfect sense of timing. Jazz purists will delight in the vocalist's treatment of Billy Strayhorn's Kissing Bug
with great scatting and wonderful trumpet backing by John MacLeod.
Hazel Walker is a confident and mature vocalist and just impresses the hell out of me. I Have Dreamed
is a faultless production and will reside on my "play often" shelf. Hazel Walker is a "class act" and I hope to see her on the festival circuit this year. Check out the sounds on Hazel's web site.