British born Ginger Baker has been among the first star drummers since the 1960s in rock and later on more in jazz. He became known for his flamboyance, showmanship and his use of two bass drums instead of the conventional single bass drum.
He was the drummer and founder member of both the legendary Cream and super group Blind Faith. In his early days as a drummer, he performed lengthy drum solos, the best known being the five-minute drum solo “Toad” from Cream’s debut album Fresh Cream (1966).
His key musical influences can be traced back to the jazz scene from such musicians as Phil Seamen, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones and Baby Dodd. Although being a firmly established rock drummer and praised as ”Rock’s first superstar drummer”, he prefers to be called a jazz drummer.In the early 1970s, Baker established close creative links with Africa, including collaboration with Fela Kuti.
In 2013 and 2014 Baker has toured with the Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion, a quartet comprising Baker, saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and percussionist Abass Dodoo. At Helsinki Festival – the largest annual arts festival in Finland – Baker appeared on 27 August with his band the Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion playing fusion jazz with Afro and prog influences.
Ginger Baker opened his concert with a jazz classic “Footprints”. Then others like “Twelve and more blues” and “Ginger Spice”. Baker’s own footprints are shown in his old records like Nigerian “Aiko Biaye”. Despite his old age and ailments he and his band made good performances (with a couple of short breaks for resting) for powerful and long lasting drumming sets being like ongoing steam locomotive. And his percussionist Abass Dodoo was nicely backing up his drumming.
The last performance of the concert was from his newest album’s title piece “Why?”, which according to Baker’s story was based on his tragedies and misfortunes during his career having lost everything for several times more than he can remember but somehow he managed to continue – a touching introduction. And then he got his excited and devoted audience to sing along Why? on his every mark during the play. The concert was most enjoyable and fulfilled the expectations.
Text & photos: Esa Paavolainen
As to the Finnish jazz side at this festival there were a couple of excellent bands to be mentioned for their improvised and talented compositions: Iiro Rantala Super Trio & Iiro Rantala String Trio http://www.iirorantala.fi/ and Jukka Eskola Orquesta Bossa (guest vocalist Cyrille Aimée). http://jukkaeskola.com/ & http://www.cyrillemusic.com/
For more information on Helsinki Festival and the artists see: http://www.helsinginjuhlaviikot.fi/en/