Whenever my sons and I are listening to music and a drum solo comes on my automatic response is, “Well, it’s no, “Toad”, which references Ginger Baker‘s 14 minute plus drum song on Cream’s Wheels of Fire album! Baker was of course a legend back in the day starting first with the Graham Bond Organisation, then with Cream, Blind Faith and Ginger Baker’s Air Force. In addition Baker recorded with Gary Moore, Hawkwind, Masters of Reality and Public Image Ltd.
Baker cites Phil Seamen, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones and Baby Dodds as influences on his style. Baker’s drumming was known for its flamboyance, showmanship and his use of to bass drums instead of the conventional single bass drum. He has been called “Rock’s first superstar drummer”, though he prefers the label of Jazz drummer. His drumming influenced a generation plus of rock drummers including: John Bonham, Peter Criss, Neil Peart,, Stewart Copeland, Ian Paice, Tommy Aldridge, Bill Bruford, Alex Van Halen, Danny Seraphine and Nick Mason. Here’s what a couple of folks say about Baker…..
“the most influential percussionist of the 1960s” and stated that “virtually every drummer of every heavy metal band that has followed since that time has sought to emulate some aspect of Baker’s playing”. AllMusic
“His playing was revolutionary – extrovert, primal and inventive. He set the bar for what rock drumming could be. […] Every rock drummer since has been influenced in some way by Ginger – even if they don’t know it – Neil Peart
Why? is Baker’s first recording in 16 years. When asked in a Rolling Stone interview, why it has take him so long to record Baker’s response was “tempus fugit” – time flies! The album contains eight tracks and is about 52 minutes in length. His band mates on the album include: bassist Alec Dankworth, saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, and percussionist Abas Dodoo. The only new track on the album is the closing track “Why?” Other tracks include two tracks from Baker favorites: Sonny Rollins (“St Thomas”) and Wayne Shorter. (“Footprints”). Several of the remaining tracks are reworking of songs from Baker’s post Cream and Blind Faith years and include: “Aiko” a Nigerian folk tune. Aiko Biaye” a Yorba song that comes from Ginger Baker’s Air Force and “Ain Temochant” which dates from Baker’s work with Charlie Haden.
It was funny the other day when I played Kenny Drew covering “St Thomas” I knew I had heard the song somewhere and couldn’t remember where until I listened to this album again!! So summarizing …. even though he is frail, he suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and osteoporosis, at 75 the legendary Baker has produced an album that is a real treat and if you’re like me and haven’t listened to a lot of Baker’s post-rock work everything is fresh and new! So Check It Out!!
Here’s Baker and his band performing “Aiko Biaye” in Madrid on 5/06/2014 – probably my favorite on the album!!