Is this what it sounds like when a musician has distilled his art down to its very core? When he knows that one note more, one tone less distinct, would dash the crystal to bits? But listening to a career-defining performance like this, you understand that Baker's not going to let that happen. On a night like this, it can't happen. The stars have aligned, at least for this performance, and the trumpeter is being protected by the jazz gods. They are speaking through his horn and his wounded vocals and they won't let anything go awry. Their beneficence even extends to Harold Danko's spare, heartbreaking piano solo and adroit accompaniment.
You hear this and wonder how Baker could have done anything but immediately announce his retirement right onstage in Tokyo. But he didn't and we got another year of scarred beauty from him. Don't listen to this too often, you wouldn't want to risk comparing all music to it.