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Monologue is not the most appropriate title for vocalist Jeff Baker's followup to Baker Sings Chet. To his credit, Baker cedes plenty of the spotlight to his band. The result is far more conversational than its title would lead one to believe.
Singers seem to fall into one of two categories. The first is the Tony Bennett/Nat King Cole type, acting as a warm and trusted friend you can turn to when you are down and out. The second is the Frank Sinatra/Billie Holiday variety, calling you at 3 am when they find themselves down and out. Of the two, Baker easily falls into the former category. His vocals convey compassion and sincerity. He is unfailingly smooth and assured.
The take of the perennial "A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square is particularly representative of Baker's personable talents. His vocals are invitingly soft and gentle. At the same time, there is room for a smooth alto saxophone solo by Brent Jensen that glows with the same warmth as the vocals. Elsewhere, bassist Doug Miller contributes a fine solo on a solidly melodic version of "I Didn't Know What Time It Was. Credit must also be given for taking on material outside of the established jazz canon with an elegant reading of "The Promise written by Tracy Chapman.
Monologue is an exceedingly pleasant album. It earns admiration in a way that can never be described as showy. Gentleness and subtlety are the hallmarks of the recording and the reasons why it is so enjoyable.
Track Listing: That Old Feeling, Answer Me, You Don't Know What Love Is, A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square, I Didn't Know What Time It Was, You Are Too Beautiful, the More I See You, Come Ready, It's Always You, Midnight Blue, The Promise, Beautiful Friendship
Personnel: Jeff Baker--vocals; Bill Anschell--piano; John Bishop--drums; Brent Jensen--alto and soprano saxophones; David Sabee--cello
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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