You really ought to get to know the promising Rochester soul quintet Baker Street. This group of Nazareth College musicians — led by singer-songwriter and guitarist Karis Gregory, and producer-keyboardist Matt Ziegler — has created the most polished debut album I've heard in a long time. The band subtly blends elements of funk, jazz, R&B, and reggae with its brand of smooth-grooving, mid-tempo soul music.
The majority of the songs were produced by Ziegler, and recorded and mixed at Nazareth College. Ziegler opts for an expansive, open sound with slight touches of reverb throughout, which serves the expressive, jam-friendly performances well. But the song arrangements are well-crafted as well, and no one instrument takes too much of the spotlight. In other words, Baker Street is very much a cohesive band, rather than just an assemblage of impressive soloists.
Gregory's tenor vocals are rich and warm, with just the right amounts of earthiness and ethereality. The vibes are laid-back, and the songs have plenty of indelible, danceable hooks. Highlights include the carefree, solo-filled eponymous track, the retro-jazzy "Way Too Long," the reggae-inflected "Fantasize" and its subsequent, subterranean interlude, and the sweet, straightforward love song "Ladybird."
Baker Street plays its album release show, along with Free Casino, on Saturday, January 18, 9 p.m. at UUU Art Collective, 153 State Street. $5. 490-0115. facebook.com/bakerstreetmus.