It is assumed that only the best performers reach national recognition, while lesser lights eke out a living in such places as the lounges of hotels. It might be more accurate to say that, good or bad, it is impossible for performers to go nationwide unless they are willing to devote nearly all their time to that pursuit, and that the lounge acts, for reasons of their own, may just be part-timers. Such reflections are inspired by the case of Margie Baker, who combined a full-time life that included a doctorate in education and a career in the San Francisco school district (not to mention raising a family) with moonlighting as a jazz singer at the San Francisco Hilton for a couple of decades and who now, in her "retirement," finally has the time to be a vocalist full-time, resulting in this, her first nationally distributed album, appearing when she is 68. (A locally released disc, Live at Rassalas, came out in 2003.) Certainly, this doesn't sound like your average debut album. Baker clearly is an accomplished, assured performer, very comfortable on-stage and capable of engaging an audience. Those decades at Henri's Room in the S.F. Hilton come through immediately when, after being introduced, she calls out to her audience, "Well, scream louder or do something!" From there on, it's one jazz or traditional R&B standard after another, with Baker singing like a distaff Joe Williams (the influence is particularly noticeable on his signature number, "Alright, OK, You Win") and coaxing hot solos out of her backup musicians, among them featured guitarist Rodney Jones. She also takes some less likely material, such as the Carpenters hit "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and Willie Nelson's "Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away" and reinterprets them in her lively, jazzy manner. This album is nothing more or less than two sets of enthusiastic jazz/blues singing by a thoroughly professional, experienced singer who just happens to be making her national debut.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann