Jeff Baker

Phrases

oa2 22150

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MUSIC REVIEW BY Michael J. West, Downbeat

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***
Phrases is a collection of beautiful, unquestionably soulful songs by singer Jeff Baker and a remarkable group of 11 musicians. The disc is moody and meditative, but spends about 80 minutes never altering its cast, to its detriment.

The album's title applies to four of its six originals. Baker cribbed lines from his favorite writers, including Stephen Chbosky, Pablo Neruda and J.D. Salinger, and recontextualized them with his own lyrics. Four tracks does not a concept album make; yet the results are impressive.

"Neruda" is less a reimagining of "Tonight I Can Write The Saddest Lines" than a re-editing, but Baker gives it high drama, emphasized with an impassioned vocal. The singer's arranging gifts shouldn't be overlooked, either. He reharmonizes Billy Joel's "And So It Goes," transforming the original's sentimentalism into dark brooding with a taut rhythm.

Each tune succeeds in its own right. Taken together, however, they become a bit monotonous. And by Phrases' final third, moody tension loses its luster. Speaking of phrases: "Leave them wanting more."






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