Moment of Truth
Melissa Walker's second CD displays both her strengths and weaknesses. She's an authoritative vocalist with a rich, dark instrument who has assembled a challenging, unhackneyed repertoire. But, like a latter-day Betty Carter (to whom she dedicates "If I Should Lose You"), she concentrates on sound at the expense of feeling. She phrases the lyric of "At Seventeen", the opening track, so choppily and overloads it with so many hip embellishments that songwriter Janis Ian's confession of adolescent angst becomes monotonous and sometimes unintelligible.
To varying degrees, the remaining ten performances are burdened by the singer's overindulgence in melismatic mannerisms. She takes the mournful "If I Should Lose You" and the introspective "Yesterdays" at inexplicably perky clips, and gracelessly fragments the melody line of the lilting Djavan samba "Upside Down." Walker's ambitiousness is evident in a trilogy of compositions honoring John Coltrane and in her brave stab at reproducing the tricky solos of the Lambert, Hendricks and Ross adaptation of Horace Silver's "Come On Home." Although Walker's artistic potential is evident throughout the CD, she won't fully realize it until she finds a way to reach beneath the surface of her material.