"Slow Down"


"Slow Down" seems an especially apt title for jazz vocalist Michelle Walker's new recording. In fact, given the CD's seductive charms and frequently relaxing pulse, "Slow Down" is more than a title, it's an invitation that's hard to resist.

Even when the tempo turns brisk and swinging on, say, "Pennies From Heaven," "Straighten Up and Fly Right" or "Sometimes I'm Happy," Walker radiates such a sunny insouciance that even the most harried listeners are likely to find cheery comfort in her music. She's no slouch, too, when it comes to milking a playfully coy lyric for all it's worth -- a talent that comes in handy when she presents herself as an insatiably needy consort on "Daddy."

Yet it's the ballads, a collection of mostly familiar and moody reflections, that best illustrate Walker's soulful and often soul-comforting allure. With a voice naturally tilted toward the blues end of the jazz spectrum, she infuses "The Very Thought Of You," "Crazy He Calls Me" and other confessional musings with warm, heartfelt emotions. She also manages to make "Your Song," the Elton John hit, seem worthy of a pared-down acoustic guitar reprise in this otherwise small combo jazz setting. A cozy collaboration from start to finish, "Slow Down" is enhanced by several musicians who are closely attuned to Walker's talent and repertoire, including keyboardist Wayne Wilentz and guitarist Dave Cosby.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Saturday at Grille 88. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Michelle Walker, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8110. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)