by Adam Greenburg, All Music Guide
Baker Sings Chet is the debut album from Jeff Baker, a Boise native that generally sings the choir and club circuits of the area. It’s also a clever little play on Chet Baker’s debut album title, Chet Baker Sings. The songs presented are all items that were associated with Chet Baker’s repertoire over the years, with his classics all here to be heard. The musicians, aside from Baker, are largely veterans from the Origin Records stables, with Rob Walker, Brent Jensen, and Stan Bock leading the horn sections, Chuck Smith on piano, Jeff Rew on bass, and Steve Hill on drums. The band itself acts almost entirely as the background for Baker’s songs, only stepping out occasionally with Jensen or Walker borrowing a line from the classic Chet recordings. The real star of the album is Jeff Baker (as one would hope), as he can alternately croon his way through “My Funny Valentine” or scat a path through an old Gershwin number, showing equal prowess either way. Often, the artists hailing from the smaller cities end up having less exposure and less development in jazz, and Idaho certainly isn’t known for its local jazz scenes (aside from the Lionel Hampton festivals), so the abilities and existence of Jeff Baker and his sound are something worth pondering in the first place. Moreover, his work is worth hearing, of course, by fans of Chet as a nice tribute album, but also by newcomers to vocal jazz that haven’t heard the cool male sound before, or at least not a good execution of the cool male sound. Baker does a fine job in recreating both the technical ability and the mood of Chet’s old work, despite being 40 or 50 years removed.