Cathi Walkup casts an enchanting spell with her new live CD, "Playing Favorites."
With a low and easy delivery and an inspired set of songs - some familiar and others from off-the-beaten track, the vocalist conjures up a world lush in ambience and rich in character.
"Playing Favorites" is loaded with atmosphere. Floating between notes, listeners can almost taste the cool warmth of a strong drink or smell the faint scent of a stranger’s cigarette.
The 14-song recording captures Walkup’s August 2002 shows at the Plush Room, a favorite San Francisco spot for jazz and cabaret. She is supported by David Udolf on piano; Jim Zimmerman, drums; Brad Buethe, guitar; John Wiitala, bass; and Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn.
Much like Bette Midler has done on many of her recordings, Walkup mixes it up with different styles and a touch of humor. She even performs "In These Shoes?," a song Midler featured on her last CD.
Also included are the bossa nova "Tanya’s Wicked Body" and the sunny "Down Here on the Ground" from the film "Cool Hand Luke." Walkup tackles tougher material with Billy Strayhorn’s "The Last Light of Evening (Blood Count)" and the Gillespie-Parker classic "Anthropology."
Throughout the CD, Walkup’s smooth alto stays in the mid-range, and she accentuates her ability to keep a song gently swinging.
"Playing Favorites" is recommended.