How Jeff Baker avoided full coverage at All About Jazz is beyond me, but now is a fine time to write this wrong. In 2009, Baker took a professional and stylistic chance in producing a jazz treatment of songs from the American Christian Songbook, Of Things Not Seen. He had worked up to this bold statement with his preceding recordings: Baker Sings Chet (OA2, 2004); Monologue (OA2, 2005); and Shopping for Your Heart (OA2, 2007). Proving deft and smart with themed recordings on his inaugural Baker Sings Chet, featuring the vocal music of Chet Baker, this next step into matters spiritual seemed quite in keeping with Baker's evolution as an artist.
Baker is in full and ebullient voice for these dozen tried-and- true and original spirituals. His support is provided by the otherwise un- named house band found at Origin Arts. Principal to this group is pianist Bill Anschell, whose instrument easily finds the NOLA in "Just a Closer Walk with Thee," and the backwater, clapboard church in "People Get Ready." Jeff Johnson quietly and with authority propels the song behind Baker and Anschell as they address their respective creative roles. Baker turns "His Eye Is on The Sparrow" upside down into a swinging stroll, even showing off his impressive scat chops. Dedication and clarity characterize this recording, deserving of a new listen.
Just A Closer Walk; People Get Ready; I'll Fly Away; His Eye Is On The Sparrow; Be Thou My Vision; Come Thou Fount; Hallelujah Anyhow; Pass Me Not; Prayer; Full Of Grace; O Sweet Gaze.
Jeff Baker: vocals;
Bill Anschell: piano;
Jeff Johnson: bass;
John Bishop: drums;
Brent Jensen: saxophone;
Dave Peterson: guitar.