An Evening with... Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion - 10/14
at City Winery Chicago
93XRT welcomes Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion
Legendary rock drummer, Ginger Baker, renowned for his work with Cream and Blind Faith, is returning to the US for a jazz fusion tour. He has teamed up with the legendary Pee Wee Ellis on tenor sax, Alec Dankworth (son of Jazz icons Cleo Laine and John Dankworth) on bass and the multi-talented Abbas Dodoo; African percussion. The quartet will be performing as ‘Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion’. You can expect progressive jazz originals in a Thelonious Monk style with exciting African rhythms!
The subject of Jay Bulger’s brilliant, award winning documentary ‘Beware of Mr Baker’ (now on DVD) and candid narrator of his best-selling autobiography Hellraiser (publ: John Blake 2009) Ginger Baker’s recognition as a drummer began whilst playing with some of the most legendary figures on the British Jazz scene and grew during his time with the Graham Bond Organisation in the early sixties; alongside the eponymous Graham on Hammond Organ, Jack Bruce on bass and Dick Heckstall-Smith on Sax. The band toured with The Who, The Troggs, The Moody Blues and Chuck Berry, attracting press interest for their musical virtuosity and appearing in the cult film ‘Gonks Go Beat’. In 1964 Baker was considered ‘one of Britain’s great drummers’ by Melody Maker journalist, Chris Welch.
While Baker, (who with the other members of Cream, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993, Modern Drummer Hall Of Fame (2010) and Classic Drummer Hall Of Fame (2011) and whose awards include a Grammy Life Time Achievement Award (2005) and Zildjian Top Drummer Award in 2008) was impressing music journalists, he was also wanting to change his musical direction. One night he saw Eric Clapton play and was immediately impressed. They jammed at a John Mayall show and Ginger invited Eric to form a band. Eric suggested Jack Bruce and in early 1966 Cream was born. In Baker’s own words they created ‘instant magic’ and began touring the UK earning £45 per show. On their last tour of the USA in 1968, they were so popular that they broke the box office records previously set by The Beatles.
After Cream, came Blind Faith in 1969 Baker and Clapton were joined by Steve Winwood and Rick Grech to make just one phenomenal album as the first ‘super group’. When Clapton and Winwood left to further their own projects, the remaining members went on to form jazz rock fusion band ‘Ginger Baker’s Airforce’ adding sax, flute, organ and extra percussion to the band. After the death of his close friend Jimi Hendrix, Ginger made a trip to Africa and found himself moved and inspired by Nigerian radio. Despite the war zone in that part of the country he was adamant about visiting Nigeria and pushed to set up a recording studio in Lagos. When it opened as ‘Batakota Studios’ Paul McCartney arrived with Wings to record part of his Band on the Run album. Music aside, Africa gave Baker a wonderful climate to live in and a healthier lifestyle than that of rock n roll and touring. He discovered his love for polo and rally driving.
Baker’s work with Airforce and friendship with Fela Kuti paved the way for Baker’s next musical project: to work with African musicians. A live album was recorded in Abbey Road studios under the name of ‘Fela Ransome- Kuti and Africa 70 with Ginger Baker’.
He then went on to form English rock group The Baker Gurvitz Army (1975) in which Baker was also involved with providing extra sounds for their debut album. The wheel spins from his Range Rover were used for their song ‘Mad Jack’ in the street outside The Who’s recording studio in Battersea, London.
After setting up a second recording studio, this time in North London, Baker formed ‘Energy’ and with the band ‘Gingers Nutters’ he performed at Glastonbury Festival in 1981. After moving firstly to Italy he settled for a while in North America, where with Masters of Reality he made the critically acclaimed album Sunrise on the Sufferbus in 1992. He also laid down some tracks with John Lydon (Sex Pistols) for his new PIL album, worked with Andy Somers (Police) & Robbie Roberstson (The band) as well as a brief tour and album with Jack Bruce & Gary Moore in BBM, 1993. Ginger then concentrated on Jazz & made several successful albums with the Ginger Baker Trio and then the DJQ20 WITH Ron Miles before leaving to live in South Africa. In 2009 he appeared at his own unmissable 70th birthday party with special guest, Steve Winwood, at London’s Jazz Café.
Ginger has now settled back in the UK and come ‘home’ to his musical roots in this quartet, Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion….
They debuted in April 2012 at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London, and have followed with performances in Europe, the UK, and Tokyo. A new album will be following shortly.