by Stephen Latessa, All About Jazz
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.