Chet Baker made a number of classics throughout his brief, cruel life, but his debut vocal album, Chet Baker Sings, might be his summit. Nobody had ever sung like him: boyish, crystalline, with a minimum of inflection. And few trumpeters before or since have gotten to the heart of a melody with such an economy of notes. While communing with Chet Baker Sings during lockdown, Amos Lee seemed to connect with all this and more.
Recorded in a single session with pianist and trumpeter David Streim, bassist Madison Rast and drummer Anwar Marshall,
But nitpicking My Ideal bar by bar would miss the point: Lee’s obvious reverence for the material shines through. (Although that could have extended to not changing the line “sweet, comic valentine” to “sick, twisted valentine”; Baker’s reading was creeping and crepuscular as is.)
A Bob Dylan quote apropos his Sinatra-covering 2010s period comes to mind: “When you start doing these songs, Frank’s got to be on your mind…. That’s the mountain you have to climb, even if you only get part of the way there.” Lee doesn’t make it all the way to the top of his chosen mountain; no one can. But if you have any interest in either the interpreter or his subject, Lee’s sizable talent and purity of intention make My Ideal a must-hear.