Jose James Sings ‘Chet Baker Sings’ (2016)

Blue Note recording artist, Jose James, performs a tribute concert to Chet Baker for the 2016 Montreal Jazz Festival.

Chet Baker is lame. Jose James knows that, and states it repeatedly throughout the performance. However, the selection of standards on ‘Chet Baker Sings’ made it possible for James to share his own interpretation of various classics of the jazz songbook.

After calling Baker ‘an amazing addict’, James launched into various modal interpretations of standard jazz classics like ‘But Not For Me’, ‘That Old Feeling’ and ‘My Funny Valentine’.

On ‘That Old Feeling’, he effictively removes the fantasist sweetness of the original by using staccato phrasing throughout. Then, his incredibly swinging band begin to fill the air with long cerebral solos that widen the range of sensations felt in the original.

Nate Smith’s drum solo steals the show abstracting rhythm to a cubist painting.

Jose James makes this material his own, rarely stopping to acknowledge its source. Even the man’s classic Funny Valentine undergoes a metamorphosis with James’ band to become a smokey lounge groove. Baker’s original ‘torch song’ was dramatic. This James is empathic, and emphatic.

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