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April 2004

Jeff Baker
Baker Sings Chet
OA2 Records

What's in a name? Enough, it seems, for Boise boy singer Jeff Baker to hang his entire, lovingly inappropriate, tribute Baker Sings Chet (OA2). As vocalists, baby-with-a-blowtorch Chet and baby-faced Jeff share little beyond a last name. Young Jeff, whose jazz-tinged theatricality earned him top marks a few years back at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, is a capable swinger, a sort of better-modulated Michael Buble. His light, pleasant style suggests Jack Jones enlivened with a dash of Mel Torme. Nowhere, though, is there the merest hint of Chet Baker. Perhaps the problem is that Jeff hasn't amassed enough personal or professional history to properly emulate one of pop celebrity's most beautifully tortured souls. Consider, for instance, his strangely peppy "But Not for Me." Chet's was all shadowy corners-a tousled god's smugly bittersweet lament for some stunner of a lost goddess. Jeff's bouncily robust version instead echoes the innocence of a schoolyard breakup. So, too, "Let's Get Lost." Chet's bristled with the suggestiveness of sporty convertibles and clandestine clinches. Jeff's sounds like a day playing hooky. Chet was too grown-up for his own good. Jeff has a lot of livin' to do. He does, however, have a definite flair for both ballads and uptempo numbers. Seasoning and a less contrived songbook could make him a strong future contender in the Connick-Stigers-Pizzarelli stakes.

Originally published in April 2004
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