Thursday, 30 October 2014

Baker shows us why he’s unforgotten

Who remembers Ginger Baker? The legendary British drummer born in Lewisham in 1939 set the music world alight in the ’60s as part of threesome Cream with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce.

But Baker was then and now essentially a drummer of the blues and of jazz, who began with the blues-drenched Graham Bond Organisation in 1964.

He was inspired by the greatest of British jazz drummers, Phil Seaman of Burton-on-Trent, and counted as his friends and “uncles” three legendary jazz drumming giants — Max Roach, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones, who he befriended in the US.

And beyond jazz for Baker was the drumming of Africa. It stretched back to 1970 when a visit to Nigeria sparked a fascination with the country’s music, prompting him to establish a recording studio in Lagos and make records with Fela Kuti.

Living in Colorado in the ’90s, Baker established a powerful jazz outfit with the trumpeter Ron Miles called the Denver Jazz Quintet-to-Octet (DJQ2O) which in 1998 waxed fine jazz record Coward of the County with the mighty tenor saxophonist James Carter as guest.

In February 2014, he recorded the album Why? with a new band called Jazz Confusion by Baker — a quartet comprising Baker, African percussionist Abass Dodoo on drums, US saxophonist “Pee Wee” Ellis and English bassist Alec Dankworth.

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