Melissa Walker Biography

With her gorgeous tone, three-octave range and impeccable phrasing, Melissa Walker has won kudos in concerts across several continents. Critics agree this brainy beauty has the goods to be included amongst today’s most compelling vocalists. With an international reputation to deliver on stage with her captivating aura, soulful interpretations and well-chosen material, Walker has sold out houses from New York to London and received rave reviews from Brazil to the Berlin. For her much anticipated release entitled IN THE MIDDLE OF IT ALL (2009), Walker gathers a potent mix that combines her powerful yet intimate style, with the arranging pallet of Christian McBride’s funkiness and world-influenced beats of longtime bandmate and musical director, Clarence Penn. Joining her for the recording are searing performances by harmonica player GregoireMaret and the contemplative phrasing of guitarist Keith Ganz and Adam Rogers. Not unlike Abbey Lincoln, Walker is adept at pulling repertoire and original compositions from diverse genres and blending them in a melting pot which includes her reverence for America’s jazz tradition and blues tinged influences, before transforming each song into something uniquely her own. Walker’s recordings have won critical acclaim and her last CD on Enja Records was hailed “Simply Perfection” by Japan’s most famous jazz magazine “Swing Journal”. A recording for which she garnered a Canadian Juno Award nomination for Best Vocal Album of the Year only to lose to her fellow country woman, Diana Krall. Walker’s exquisite voice, jazz influenced delivery and intimate sense of song have long garnered her one of the best voices in jazz and a working relationship with many of today’s foremost musicians including: Gary Bartz, Stefon Harris, Kenny Barron, Hank Jones, Phil Woods, Buster Williams, Russell Malone, Makoto Ozone, Geri Allen, Steve Turre, Benny Green and Christian McBride to whom she was married in 2005. Walker is currently working on a classic jazz recording teaming her with long time friend and consummate vocal accompanist and composer, Norman Simmons, backed by McBride and Lewis Nash for a small ensemble recording reminiscent of the ones Simmons arranged for Carmen McRae. In performance in Manhattan at the Jazz Standard, Birdland, Joe’s Pub or Iridium; abroad, at such notable jazz rooms as the Blue Note in Japan, Pizza Express in London or Marianne’s in Bern, Switzerland; or at major international festivals including the Montreux, Berlin, Nice, or North Sea Jazz Festivals, Walker has turned heads and excited influential critics to rave about this gifted singer’s “instrument perfectly under control…A voice with remarkable feeling for moods.” —Amadeo (Germany) With her impeccable choice of material and ability to winningly mingle classic jazz vocal standards with current material as well as her own original compositions, “Walker vaults into the upper echelons of singers.” —The Scanner Melissa’s anchored and wide-open musicianship mirrors her dual cultural heritage. Born the youngest of three sisters in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where her father played professional football. Both parents—American born and raised—eventually went on to earn doctorate degrees and as an interracial couple, set the stage for their children to explore the world without boundaries. Melissa herself graduating from a coveted ivy league—Brown University—intended to enroll in law school, but the legal life was not to be. Local performances led to out-of-town dates, then to her 1993 self-produced recording, LITTLE WISHES, and subsequent relocation to New York City, where she studied with pianist and master vocal-accompanist Norman Simmons. Matthias Winckelmann of Germany’s Enja Records heard her sing in New York and Walker became Enja’s first female jazz vocalist signed by his impressive label since Abbey Lincoln many years earlier. Her career on the ascent, Melissa recorded MAY I FEEL, her first Enja CD, in 1998, receiving a coveted US Indie Award nod for Vocal Jazz. Her subsequent CD, MOMENT OF TRUTH, released in 1999, vaulted her to the forefront of her generation of jazz stylists. Media coverage followed: appearances on ABC, BET, Oxygen Network, Reuters and Fox TV; stories and reviews in Down Beat, US, Ebony, Jazz Times, Swing Journal, Billboard, Vogue, Munich Daily and London’s Evening Standard and a host of European journals and newspapers—all proclaiming her ability to command an a song as well as an audience. “You could hear a pin drop”, said Germany’s Frankfurter AligemeineZeitung, “in her performance in an overcrowded, steaming jazz club.” The Danish journal Stiftstidende remarked that hers was the sound of “honey-jazz,” a theme reiterated by Jazz Review when it called Melissa’s voice “the equivalent of warm honey.” But, perhaps, Audio-Germany magazine said it best: “What a sound!” As her reputation grew, Melissa recorded her third Enja CD with longtime band mate and producer Clarence Penn, I SAW THE SKY, released in 2001. The release was a Canadian Juno Award finalist. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s well-known jazz critic, Bob Protzman, compared her to Sarah Vaughan. Jazz Review called her “a cross between Carmen McRae and Betty Carter.” Melissa Walker joined the late Ray Brown’s 75th Birthday Celebration Tour, collaborated with Japan’s superstar Sadao Watanabe, and opened for legendary Ray Charles, and performed with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Wynton Marsalis at the Duke Ellington Centennial Celebration. Melissa has continued to shine in recent performances and on an upcoming Piano Jazz feature with the great Marian McPartland. Appearing as a special guest with the Christian McBride Band at NYC’s Jazz Standard during the coveted New Year’s week found All About Jazz critic Russ Musto writing of Walker’s “marvelous articulation and expansive range.” Melissa is a special guest on the 2005 release, BLUES IN THE NEW YORK NIGHT, a tribute and celebration of New York City led by renowned audio impresario, Charles Morrow and master bassist, Buster Williams featuring Geri Allen, Paul Bollenback, Stefon Harris and Lenny White. Walker was also featured on a recent Christmas release with Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz for National Public Radio. When not in performance, Walker dedicates her time to Jazz House Kids, the acclaimed not-for-profit organization she founded, which provides jazz enrichment programs for young people; offering kids the opportunity to think creatively and approach tasks in new and different ways through the medium of jazz. Each year thousands of young people, their teachers and families are introduced to the world of jazz and many of today’s greatest artists. In addition, Melissa is a sought-after voice-over and imaging voice talent working with entertainment and commercial clients. She is a featured imaging voice for Sirius Satellite’s Pure Jazz program. She has hosted BET’s Journey with Jazz for the grand opening of the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s new space on Columbus Circle in New York, and was the voice of Ms. Lightning in the Nickelodeon pilot Zwoosh. Asked what stirs her to achieve what The Washington Post called her “all-enveloping” mastery of a song, Melissa has said, “I think of songs as stories. They represent and convey our universal expectations about love, joy, longing, loss, regret, roads taken and not taken. Songs capture the essence of our spirits and help define our spiritual life; they are celebrations of what we’ve done and who we are. They are my offerings to the audience who hold dear: the art of the song.” Book Melissa Walker for shows and concerts at Heavy Rotation booking agency. Worldwide Bookings with HR Booking. Melissa Walker Booking, Book Melissa Walker. Book artists like Melissa Walker, Melissa Walker booking agent, contact Melissa Walker email, Melissa Walker manager, Melissa Walker management for concerts, bookings, biography, pictures, videos. Melissa Walker may be available for your club shows, private party, festivals or other events.

Videos

Book Melissa Walker Now