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Singer-songwriter Amos Lee does a deep dive into the sound of Chet Baker’s vocals

Amos Lee
Shervin Lainez
Amos Lee

Amos Lee sings. His voice’s unmistakable soul and warmth has been on heavy rotation for nearly two decades in the mainstream as a singer-songwriter — giving us silky coffee shop hits like “Arms of a Woman,” “Flower,” and “Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight.” After launching his career on the historic Blue Note Record label, the Philadelphia-based musician has embarked on a project in honor of another smooth and cool vocalist: Chet Baker — with the release of My Ideal: A Tribute to Chet Baker Sings, out November 18 on Dualtone Records.

Chet Baker’s 1954 vocal debut Chet Baker Sings remains a relevant stylistic touchstone in the jazz canon seven decades later for listeners and musicians alike—including Lee—who revisited the album during a darker period in the Spring of 2020. “[I] started listening to Chet Baker Sings over and over and over and over and over again, and the songs just resonated for me in a place that is deeply sad,” Lee explains. “But also there was a nonchalance about it that made a lot of sense to me and was comforting to me. Like, you can feel terrible and it's still okay.”

Baker’s album features irreplaceable entries in The Great American Songbook including “There Will Never Be Another You” and a haunting rendition of “My Funny Valentine.”

Listen to Chet Baker's version of "But Not For Me" from Chet Baker Sings here:

But Not For Me (Vocal Version)

When embarking on his project, Amos Lee was aware of the challenge presented by paying tribute to these recordings that have been so closely associated with Chet and his inimitable voice. “He has such an idiosyncratic approach as a singer,” says Lee. “You want to imitate him to an extent, but then when you try to imitate him, it just sounds bad. So the thin line for me was how do I pay tribute to this in a way that feels honest and real to me and express the love that I have for this project without imitating.”

Listen to Amos Lee’s version of “My Funny Valentine” here:

Amos Lee - My Funny Valentine (For Oskar and Eli) [Official Lyric Video]

Amos’ voice reaches new, lustrous levels throughout the project, which features all compositions tackled by Chet Baker in the original and 1956 reissue of Chet Baker Sings, albeit in a style that is still true to Amos Lee. “It's just a totally different way to approach singing than I had ever done,” Lee reflects on the record. “And it made me reexamine my own style and my own approach to songs and singing. And I'm grateful for it.”

Check out our entire conversation here:

Trevor has been listening to WBGO for nearly half of his life. The station has remained near and dear from the first time he tuned in via a portable radio on a bus from his home city of Hartford to New York.