Friday, February 12, 2016

Robert Francis Valentine for Chet Baker

Robert Francis
Aeronaut Records

Singer-songwriter Robert Francis, has a new album "Valentine" where he covers the classic "Chet Baker Sings," which was the late Baker's first vocal recording. The origin for this session came from one night he came by a Wednesday jazz gig that Aeronaut's owner John Mastro organized and sang "a standard "My Funny Valentine" with the house band. A few weeks later he recorded this album with backing from Guitarist John Storie, bassist Tim Emmons, drummer Kenny Elliot and sax man Zane Musa (who are all members of Jeff Goldblum's band The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra). Saxophonist Musa passed away a few weeks after this was recorded.

Francis evokes Baker's low-key, whisky laced vocals without simply imitating Baker. The backing helps contribute to this with Guitarist Storie providing a nice setting and Elliot's adroit use of brushes contributing to the feel of the performances. Francis almost whispers "My Funny Valentine" until he cries "stay little valentine," while his more demonstrative singing on "Time After Time" is complemented by Musa's saxophone, both feathery and robust. Musa adds obligatos on "I Fall In Love Too Easily" and solos with some delightfully old school tenor. His robust tenor sets the plate for Francis' swinging "There Will Never Be Another You."

A particular highlight is "The Thrill Is Gone," with Francis' melancholy vocal echoed by Musa's  sax. I have not heard Francis outside of this recording, and even if stylistically indebted to Baker here, the performances have their own charm. This charm, in part, results from the sympathetic backing, as well as Francis' own vocals, leading to focused, concise performances. This is available as a 10 inch vinyl album and as a digital download from the usual sources.

A publicist provided me with a download of this. Here is Robert performing "Time After Time."

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