After a seven-year absence, vocalist/composer/arranger/educator and foremost fan of the Boise State Broncos, Jeff Baker has returned to the studio to add to his already impressive discography, which includes: Baker Sings Chet (OA2, 2004); Monologue (OA2, 2005); Shopping for Your Heart (OA2, 2007); Of Things Not Seen (OA2, 2009).
The distance between the earthy, basic Of Things Not Seen and the present airy and ethereal Phrases is a vast one. Baker increases his instrumentation dramatically, from a quintet on the former to a septet, adding an additional four as a string quartet for several selections. He also pulls all the stops on his composing, having written the majority of the 11 selections included. Foremost of the original compositions are those based on the writings of Pablo Neruda ("Neruda"), JD Salinger ("Salinger"), and Salvador Plascencia ("People of Paper"). Baker's melodies are lofty and light and his voice, solid with a rich hint of androgyny, meld well with the lyrics garnered.
"Ballad of the Sad Young Men" is nearly perfect in its adaptation to the surrounding material. Pianist Darrell Grant does an admirable job keeping this recording's light-as-air approach aloft and moving forward. It is a recognition of Baker's talent that he attracts bassist Clark Sommers and alto saxophonist Steve Wilson into his creative fray. Baker arrived years ago. It is now time for us to pay attention.