Liner Notes from "The Summer Knows:"
It's a cold Saturday night in a smoky Chicago night club circa 1960. Amidst the din of voices and sporadic laughter Chet Baker enters stage right with his trumpet in hand. The spotlight highlights the haze, and he opens with "My Funny Valentine". Forty-five years later, Jeff Hedberg enters the same stage carrying his flugelhorn; the spotlight highlights his presence, and an hour and a half later, he closes with his own affecting interpretation of the same Rodgers and Hart lyrics, "Please stay and make each day a Valentine's Day."
Jeff's voice produces memories of these times. Certainly one can hear Mel Torme, Ella, and of course Chet Baker in his performance. But to only describe this artist as an "updated" or "modern" version of someone else would be to deprive him of the identity that comes from blending various styles into one cohesive voice.
It is this voice that brings us the cool, melodic, sexy sound Jeff can truly call his own. One may think that because he is young and this is his first album, he is just beginning his journey. But for this musician, and so many others, the journey begins long before the first recording is made or the first club date is commanded. To arrive at this level of talent, one is prepared with years of practice, study, and hard work. Jeff has attained his skill through not only his undergraduate diploma from Elmhurst College and his Master's from Northwestern, but also via the practical experience jazz players value above all else. His home is Chicago, a hub for so many talented musicians such as Kurt Elling, Patricia Barber, and Libby York. It is Chicago itself that has provided his education as much as any school within it.
Specifically, Jeff's work on this album is splendid. His voice technically is controlled yet expressive. He shows off his talents with repertoire including "The Summer Knows", "'Round Midnight", and "Cry Me A River". He utilizes vocal embellishments freely, but has the maturity and instrumental intelligence to know when to avoid them as well. He is able to let the written melody and his voice stand on their own; owing to the fact that his voice is strong, his range broad, and his phrasing superb. None of these intuitive intellects should surprise us, because Jeff also plays the flugelhorn masterfully. The phrasing, articulation, and breath control used to play his horn influence his voice. There are vocal qualities to his playing, and instrumental qualities to his singing. He approaches both using the same dark tone, the same robust phrasing, the same elongated lines. Just listen to the first tune, "Comes Love". We hear Chet Baker's voice, Miles' tone, and Clifford Brown's triplet figures.
Jeff combines the best of past and present, vocal and instrumental, improvisation and lyricism, playfulness and coolness. It is a distinctive pleasure to listen to this album. Surely his style will appeal to all listeners, from those fans of Mel Torme and Frank Sinatra, to Harry Connick and Norah Jones, to Chet Baker and Miles Davis. The songs and the music are universal; as is Jeff's charming style.
Contributing writer - jazzreview.com
Author - www.jazzwriter.com