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Jeff Baker is a Boise, Idaho native with a New York state of mind. His debut recording, Baker sings Chet, pays tribute less to Chet than to the music the late vocalist made his own. Jeff Baker has a beautifully smooth and confident vocal style that would sound appealing singing polka music. Backing Mr. Baker is an exquisite septet that sounds damn near like a big band. This swinging little-big unit tears it up with pithy and intelligently arranged renditions of the Chet Baker songbook that downright refreshes the music.
Baker shares the limelight with all of the band members. Alto saxophonist Brent Jensen turns in a bona fide West Coast solo on "How Deep is the Ocean." Tenor player Sandon Mayhew shows up on "The Touch of Your Lips," along with bassist Jeff Rew, whose solo is short and to the point. The showstopper of the disc is an almost bulldozer abstract "But Not For Me," a Gershwin classic taken at a breakneck pace, featuring Jensen on alto followed by Rob Walker's flugelhorn, which gives way to Baker's own deft scatting. The watershed "My Funny Valentine" is given an airy, dreaming treatment, with Baker's own timbre approaching that of Chet Baker's flat affect.
The sum of the parts of this recording is definitely greater than the whole. I recommend this recording without reservation. Jeff Baker is an important emerging new talent.
Track Listing: How Deep Is The Ocean?; The Touch Of Your Lips; I Get Along Without You;
My Ideal; But Not For Me; Oh You Crazy Moon; The Thrill Is Gone; Let's
Get Lost; My Funny Valentine; Easy Living; Medley: Autumn In New York /
September Song; Everything Depends On You.
Personnel: Jeff Baker: vocals; Chuck Smith: piano; Jeff Rew: bBass; Steve Hill:
drums; Brent Jensen: alto saxophone; Rob Walker: trumpet and flugelhorn;
Sandon Mayhew: tenor saxophone; Stan Bock: trombone.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.