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The spirit of Chet Baker is alive and well in the performance of Chicagoland trumpeter and vocalist Jeff Hedberg. On his CD, Come And Meet Me In A Dream, Hedberg demonstrates a similar essence in his light tenor voice and rather spare approach in trumpet improvisation that are very reminiscent of the almost fragile effluence of the late great Chet Baker. Hedberg and his band, Sketches in Blue, wind their way through 11 tunes listed on the CD cover and one segment of scatting at the end that is either a coda to the tune “Goodbye” or is just something leftover from the recording session that didn’t merit a title. Most of the CD’s repertoire is drawn from The Great American Songbook, although also included are the Miles Davis tune “All Blues,” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count,” and “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing.” All the tunes are performed with a standard straight-ahead approach and there are neither musical surprises nor innovationsmerely adequate renditions of well-worn chestnuts that are part of the standard repertoire of jazz musicians today.
What prevents this CD from being no more than a good personal musical snapshot is the rather amateurish sound of the recording and the obvious lack of musical maturity evidenced in Hedberg’s phrasing and vocal intonation. The mix between Hedberg’s voice and the piano played by John Jeffery is totally out of balance. It is difficult for the listener to discern whether one is listening to a singer being accompanied by a rhythm section or whether one is being treated to a lesson on piano comping. There are times when Hedberg’s voice is nearly drowned out by the rhythm section that is supposedly supporting him.
While Hedberg’s spirit and determination certainly deserve positive recognition, this is a performer who is still somewhat removed from achieving the polish necessary to be recognized as a great performer. Although part of jazz vocal performance certainly includes pitch bending and/or delaying resolution of dissonance, on the performance of Strayhorn’s “Blood Count” and the standard “Autumn Leaves” in particular, Hedberg, instead of sounding hip, just sounds off key. There are also numerous times when Hedberg’s delivery of a vocal line falls short of completing the musical phrase. He should have either taken the tunes at a slightly faster tempo, or increased his capacity for breath support.
While it is understandable that this recording is likely Jeff Hedberg’s first attempt in a studio, it is hoped that he will eventually aspire to, and reach greater heights of accomplishment in his singing, playing and quality of recordings. Come And Meet Me In A Dream will only be a necessary purchase to an assiduously serious collector’s jazz CD library. And, necessary only, if Hedberg should some day become a known quantity in the jazz pantheon.
Track Listing: Old Devil Moon, Blood Count, The Way You Look Tonight, For Heaven's Sake, You Don't Know What Love Is, One For My Baby, Almost Like Being In Love, Autumn Leaves, A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing, All Blues, Goodbye
Personnel: Jeff Hedberg--vocals, trumpet, flugelhorn; John Jeffery--piano; Lucas Kammerer--bass; Bryan Sansom--congas
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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