Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion - Musical Instrument Museum - October 18, 2013
Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion
Photos by Glenn BurnSilver. Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion.
Musical Instrument Museum
October 18, 2013
The first thing you notice about Ginger Baker is that, for a jazz drummer, he holds his sticks wrong. Of course, despite all his flirtations with African rhythms and jazz in many forms, Baker--a founding member of psychedelic rock heavyweights Cream and Blind Faith, as well as leading outfits such as Ginger Baker's Air Force and Baker Gurvitz Army-- is at his core a rock and roll drummer.
However, that doesn't mean he isn't one hell of a jazz drummer, which was evident during his two Musical Instrument Museum sets with Jazz Confusion. Already accustomed to playing in supergroups, he assembled one for these musical explorations--Ghanaian percussionist Abass Dodoo sat next to Baker, while bassist Alec Dankworth and former James Brown saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis rounded out the quartet.
The combo opened the evening with a steamy, kinetic version of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints." Beginning with a sultry sax intro, the track broke into a heavily moving rhythm fortified by the two drummers. Then came the moments where the drums took a polyrhythmic, African turn as Dodoo and Baker carried the tune in a new direction before Ellis and Dankworth brought the two back into the core track. It was a powerful opening number, lasting almost 10 minutes, and it set the tone for the evening.
He's known for his cantankerous attitude, but his dry wit was in effect as well on Friday. "Someone's got a dose of the clap," he said, after being interrupted by applause--the delivery was so dry it almost went unnoticed.
Ellis then kicked off his own composition, "Twelve and More Blues," with a long slow wail that, after a quick drum breakbeat, morphed into a funky New Orleans-style walking' jazz shredder that afforded everyone moments of freedom and introspective interplay.
Baker next explained how a car crash in Algeria--one where he ended up in an olive tree lucky to be alive--inspired "Ain Temouchant," which opened with a nasally sax and slinky bass pattern recalling an Arabian bazaar. The drum patterns were African in nature with circular, repeating patterns and brief shots of call and response interplay between Dodoo and Baker.
The African influence was also strong on "Ginger Spice," a Ron Miles composition. Baker was the first drummer to incorporate African percussion dialects in rock music--he performed with Afrobeat founder Fela Kuti as he lived in Nigeria in the early 1970s--and his fascination and openness to exploit these sounds has always carried over into his jazz bands.