The Fabulous Baker Girl

In South Florida R&B stands for Ruby Baker

Since moving to Coconut Creek, she's been busier than ever. In addition to her Wednesday-night gig at Jazid, she performs at the Escape in Fort Lauderdale's Las Olas Riverfront every Thursday and at O'Hara's in Hollywood every other Tuesday. Adding to her hectic schedule are regular jobs singing at event banquets for corporations, such as MCI or Disney. She and her five-piece band also perform at lavish private parties.

Baker says she's satisfied patching together work, though her ultimate goal is to score a recording contract. "The contracts I've been offered have just not been favorable," she notes.

One of the problems Baker has encountered is her unwillingness to suffer fools (or foolish contracts) gladly. She doesn't have the sort of deferential temperament that music execs favor. "I don't think a lot of people really like me, as far as my personality goes," she says bluntly. "I've been told that I'm hard to approach. But I don't know why. I love everybody. I'm full of love. I think I'm just one of those people you have to get to know. I think people also get upset because I'm so meticulous. If something someone plays doesn't sound right, I tell them. I'm not going to hold back. I may not be able to play an instrument, but I do have two ears."

Ruby Baker may be a diva, but she's no prima donna: She lets her band members shine, too
Preston
Ruby Baker may be a diva, but she's no prima donna: She lets her band members shine, too

Details

Every other Tuesday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at O'Hara's Jazz Cafe and Swing Street Bistro, 1903 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 954-925-2555. She also performs every Thursday from 6 to 11 p.m. at the Escape, Las Olas Riverfront, 300 SW 1st Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-463-3318. There is no cover for either show.

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Indeed Baker is also a songwriter of some repute. She cowrote the song "Let Me Take You Down," sung by Stacey Lattisaw. The tune climbed to No. 5 on Billboard's R&B chart in 1988. Baker is hoping to showcase her writing talents, as well as her voice, on her forthcoming album.

Still Baker, ever the perfectionist, refuses to sing any of her new material publicly, until she deems the songs ready. That means, as she heads back inside for her second set at Jazid, she's left belting out covers of songs such as Etta James' "Damn Your Eyes" and "Smooth Operator" by Sade. A gracious bandleader, Baker has no problem allowing other members of her quintet to take over vocal duties. "There are five points to a star," she reasons.

Stepping back from the spotlight, she allows Johnny James, her saxophonist and cousin, to rap a couple of Will Smith hits. Although the inclusion of two rap songs feels a bit disconcerting in a jazz club, the tunes ignite the audience.

Baker herself can feel the energy -- and she responds. Her voice rises from a growl to a searing cry. She exhorts the audience to let the music move them, and they rise from their seats, making an informal dance floor in front of the stage. In a moment of exuberance, Baker calls to the female half of a couple dancing nearby. Wrapping her cousin's arms around her waist, Baker rubs her butt against his thighs. "You have to do it like this, honey! Look! Like this! Oh!" The audience roars. Ruby Baker's face lights up with a broad grin. At last she is having fun.

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