Chet Baker may have sold boxcars of records as a vocalist, but that didn't prevent him from getting dissed by hostile critics, who found his singing too understated, too feminine, or (at times, in his later years) too out of tune for their tastes. But I am an admirer and feel that Baker's best vocal tracks from the early years are defining statements of the cool sensibility. John Proulx will walk into the same landmines as his predecessor on this project, in which he presents a tribute to Baker, and delivers the lyrics in a style that comes straight out of Chet's playbook. In other words, don't expect this CD to be touted by the arbiters of taste on their "best of year" lists. Even so, as much as this singer shows his allegiance to his role model, he is equally willing to incorporate some disruptive elements into the arrangements, quirky ingredients that impart a post-modern flavor to the proceedings. You could easily get lost in "Let's Get Lost" after he has reworked the chords and rhythm. At first, the rhythm section takes such a divergent path from the vocal that a listener might be tricked into thinking that this was one of those sampled mix-and-match recordings combining tracks that never were meant to go together. Yet everything coheres for the solos, and new smooth jazz sensation Dominick Farinacci shows off his tone and taste—he hints here that he could be a contender, but I fear he might end up another trend-chaser without a strong anchor. Proulx, for his part, maintains his likeable, low-key attitude throughout the proceedings. This CD won't replace the old Pacific Jazz tracks on my cool-down playlist, but I wouldn't be surprised if it attracted some of the younger generation both to Proulx and to the late Mr. Baker.
Tags: let's get lost
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