She is confident enough to treat her musicians as collaborators, not mere backup. They include Craig Handy and Steve Wilson on reeds and a strong rhythm section of George Colligan, Paul Bollenback, Kiyoshi Kitagawa, Clarence Penn and Steve Croon.
And Walker clearly knows how to pick tunes and put an album together. The diverse mix on this release includes compositions by Horace Silver, John Coltrane, Abdullah Ibrahim, Janis Ian and Bronislau Kaper.
Her rich voice and playing -with-time phrasing are put to good use in the opener, Janis Ian's evocative "Seventeen". Sensitivity to lyrics, a hallmark of all great singers, is displayed throughout this CD but particularly on "Seventeen" and Norman Simmon's "What Do I Know." Betty Carter is saluted with a swinging "If I Should Lose You". Djavan's Brazilian "Upside Down " just builds and builds! Collaboration is evident in the arrangement of Silver's "Come On Home". Walker and Handy are a single voice in the unison opening, while late in this number, Walker plays backup to Handy's tenor. And if anyone can get me to like Kaper's "Invitation" it will be Ms. Walker!
The heart of this album, however, is the homage to John Coltrane. included are Ibrahim's "For John"; drummer Clarence Penn's "Portrait of Equinox", based on Trane's tune, with lyrics by Walker; and "Naima", sung in French. Even with the sax, Wilson's soprano, appearing only on "Equinox" Trane is very much there .
In the liner notes , Walker speaks of being so moved by listening one night to Coltrane's music on her car radio. Strangely enough, I had a similar experience when I switched mine on a few weeks ago. Someone was singing Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays", which closes this album. It was a beautiful moment. For an instant I thought I heard Carmen , then realized I was hearing someone new. That was my introduction to a remarkably talented performer, Melissa Walker.