Into His Rest: Grace and Glory VIII
is a collection of thirteen hymns (two are combined into a medley) arranged for solo piano and performed by Bob Baker. About half of these songs are familiar old hymns, and the others I assume are more contemporary praise songs. The arrangements emphasize the melodies of these wonderful songs yet add many personal touches and interpretations that should be pleasing to traditionalists as well as listeners with a more contemporary ear. Baker’s gospel influence emerged after attending Living Waters Tabernacle in Denver where he currently helps with solo piano and accompaniment. The album was recorded at Aspen Meadows Resort in Colorado on a Bosendorfer 225 grand piano (7’4” and 92 keys), which has a very rich and beautiful tone - perfect for Baker’s expressive style of playing. The overall feel of the album is very relaxed and soothing, so even if you aren’t into hymns, this is a heartfelt, satisfying solo piano album.
Into His Rest begins with a medley of “I Need Thee Every Hour” and “The Old Rugged Cross.” The opening strains are the simple melody line played with the damper pedal depressed, giving the echo-y feeling of vast open space and alone-ness. Once the left hand enters, the piece warms up and becomes more prayer-like. “The Old Rugged Cross” was a favorite of mine when I was growing up, and I love Baker’s take on it! “Does Jesus Care?” begins with a simple playing of “Jesus Loves Me,” another childhood favorite, before going into the song itself, which also has a relatively simple melody that Baker infuses with emotion. “I Surrender All” is an old standard, but Baker freshens it up and makes it new again. “Holy City” isn’t familiar to me, but I love the poignant melody and the expressive quality of Baker’s playing. “Just As I Am,” another classic hymn, is brought up-to-date without changing it too much. I love “More About Jesus”! Given a more gospel styling than the other songs, it is upbeat and joyous without interrupting the more serious overall tone of the album. I’d love to hear more songs like this! “Oh The Deep Deep Love of Jesus” has been a favorite since I first heard Jeff Bjorck’s piano arrangement fifteen years ago, and I really like Baker’s arrangement, too! Baker closes his album with a lovely take on “He Leadeth Me.” Warm and very sincere, it’s a wonderful expression of faith and devotion.
I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with Bob Chaz Baker and his music until quite recently, and what a happy discovery it is! Into His Rest is available from www.bobchazbaker.com
and CD Baby. Recommended!