Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion – Upcoming gigs

Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion

19th September – Gijon, Plaza Mayor, Spain
20th September Stratford Circus, London
27th September – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

October Tour – U S A

8th October Bucks County PlayhouseNew Hope, PA
9th, 10th, 11th, 12th & 13th October –IRIDIUM, New York
14th October City Winery, Chicago
15th & 16th October Dakota, Minneapolis
19th October Yoshi’s, Oakland
18th October – MIM, Phoenix
22nd & 23rd October – Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, Seattle

Check out Jazz Confusion here

 

Ginger’s next gigs

Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion

Ginger will be playing at the following venues in November:

Tokyo

The Cotton Club on 21, 22, 23 Nov

The Workshop on 24 Nov

UK

In the UK he’ll play …

The Jazz Café, London on 28 Nov

The Cluny, Newcastle on 29 Nov

and Fibbers, York on 30 Nov

Ginger – back in the UK and playing live

Ginger Baker on tour with Jazz Confusion

Ginger arrived in the UK on a cold and wintry day in December 2011. Leaving behind him his beautiful ranch and horses in the Western Cape of South Africa. Making yet another journey into the unknown. Well not quite, a journey back to his English roots more like. Back to Kent and the seaside town of Whitstable. On my last visit I found his humble bungalow 2 minutes walk away from the sea. There I found Whistable harbour while walking his Dalmatian, and brought back oysters and crab with me which he ate before setting off for the London Palladium to accept a Lifetime Achievement award. He told me the real achievement was to reach 72!

 

Ginger has a new band project: Jazz Confusion. They just played at Ronnie Scot’s in London (April 27 and 28). The line-up, saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth, and percussionist Abass Dodoo.

 

Ginger told me he was playing really well and that the band was amazing – blew everyone away. He had a jazz crowd on their feet and dancing! Here’s an excerpt from the gig taken from someone’s phone by the looks (so not the best of quality I’m afraid): http://youtu.be/UAib5aahjaw

 

I’ve asked Ginger if any one filmed it. If they have I’ll post it.

 

Next dates for Jazz Confusion are in July at the Glasgow Int. Jazz Festival, he then plays Stockton, Manchester and Coventry and finishes on July 21 at Munich Summer Club Festival, Bayrische Hof. As soon as I get the dates from Ginger, I’ll post them on Facebook.

 

Until soon…

Drugs and jazz…

 

Ginger Baker early 60s

I’m sure that many times drugs played a major part in the many arguments my parents had, though of course in my earliest memories it was just upset at ‘bad feeling’ I had no idea what it meant or what had caused it. Later I came to understand what would set off the carnage and that in some was ways was worse because I knew where it was headed and where it would end; in violence. Mum would get black eyes and use the old chestnut excuse that she’d ‘walked into a door.’ She sported other bruises too. Yet she says now ‘I gave as good as I got’ and fondly remembers an incident when they were beating each other with lumps of wood when naked. In fights with his current wife my Dad says, ‘it’s just like Liz and I’. To them alone it is some warped expression of love.

 

Drug problems were of course at the root of many disagreements and the use of drugs made everything more emotional and certainly darker. During the Graham Bond years, my father made his first of many attempts to get straight and took me with him ‘up to London’ to Wimpole street to see the doctor who prescribed to many addicts, Lady Frankau. We waited for the bus that day on Neasden Lane where a low brick wall borders the shrub filled garden of a square and wholly unremarkable three-story apartment block.

 

Dad held my hand as I walked along the length of the wall, then sat me on his shoulders at the bus-stop where we sang ‘bus, bus hurry up’ together. He was excited at the prospect of collecting his script and getting high. Yet he maintains that after Lady Frankau had praised me as a ‘beautiful child’ he looked at my face and ditched the precious script on the way home. He then attempted to do a tour of the North of England whilst going ‘cold turkey.’ When he returned he went back to Lady Frankau and asked for help to withdraw using a process he tried on every occasion he got ‘messed up’ again. This involved the use of a drug called ‘physeptone’, though to me it is a ‘word’ I’m familiar with hearing very often throughout my childhood and beyond. The difficulties of withdrawal and stresses of running a band and dealing with family life only increased the conflict at home.

Ginger Baker’s inside story continued…

The Graham Bond Organisation

Dad had a gig in Brighton with GBO and so we went and Dad and Mum went and stayed at their friends for the night.  Liz, Howard and Moi were on their way on foot to the venue but unsure of its whereabouts having failed to get clear directions beforehand. But then my mother espied some splashes of vomit at intermittent intervals along the route and suggested they follow these, which sure enough belonged to Ginger and led them to the gig. This story is always told with humour but in fact it shows how established and accepted my father’s heroin habit had become. He had obviously had ‘a fix’ prior to the gig to help him play well; but was it also to mask stage-fright and the stress of coping with a social situation? After a fix, a junkie will often throw up and so there we all were already caught up in the dark myths of our own story.

 

I’m sure that many times drugs played a major part in the many arguments my parents had, though of course in my earliest memories it was just upset at ‘bad feeling’ I had no idea what it meant or what had caused it. Later I came to understand what would set off the carnage and that in some was ways was worse because I knew where it was headed and where it would end; in violence. Mum would get black eyes and use the old chestnut excuse that she’d ‘walked into a door.’ She sported other bruises too. Yet she says now ‘I gave as good as I got’ and fondly remembers an incident when they were beating each other with lumps of wood when naked. In fights with his current wife my Dad says, ‘it’s just like Liz and I’. To them alone it is some warped expression of love.

 

Drug problems were of course at the root of many disagreements and the use of drugs made everything more emotional and certainly darker. During the Graham Bond years, my father made his first of many attempts to get straight and took me with him ‘up to London’ to Wimpole street to see the doctor who prescribed to many addicts, Lady Frankau. We waited for the bus that day on Neasden Lane where a low brick wall borders the shrub filled garden of a square and wholly unremarkable apartment block.

 

Dad held my hand as I walked along the length of the wall, then sat me on his shoulders at the bus-stop where we sang ‘bus, bus hurry up’ together. He was excited at the prospect of collecting his script and getting high. Yet he maintains that after Lady Frankau had praised me as a ‘beautiful child’ he looked at my face and ditched the precious script on the way home. He then came home and attempted to do a tour of the North whilst going ‘cold turkey.’ When he returned he went back to Lady Frankau and asked for help to withdraw using a process he tried on every occasion he got ‘messed up’ again. The difficulties of withdrawal and stresses of running a band and dealing with family life only increased the conflict at home.

The story behind the story of Ginger Baker

Ginette Baker’s experience of writing the Hellraiser biography and her life growing up with Ginger.

Cream and Ginger Baker

When I came to write my father’s autobiography Hellraiser in 2009 I was transported back to our sixties world and so was he. The following paragraph (from Chapter Five) sparked my recollections.

 

Back at our little ground floor maisonette [recounts Ginger Baker], life seemed normal and happy. I bought a load of timber and constructed bookshelves and cupboards. We had a small back garden where I grew lettuce, carrots, radishes and large cannabis plants among the runner beans. Liz [my mother] was aware of my [heroin] habit but had accepted it and to all intents and purposes we were a happy couple with a beautiful young daughter.”

 

My first feeling when writing that was the conviction that the statement was in fact quite far from the truth as far as I was concerned! We were short of money, or as Dad later put it to me, ‘when I was twenty-one I had a wife, child and heroin habit to support’ (not necessarily in that order) and he often got paid £3 a night and would walk all the way back from London in order to save his bus fare.

 

In no way would I ever have described my parents as a ‘happy couple’ and in truth neither would they after about 1959!  As we shall see, Ginger Baker had insecurities like the rest of us, the existence of which had led him to seek solace in drugs in the first place.

 

The 1960’s sun did indeed shine brightly on the tall rows of runner beans twisting up their bamboo canes with their bushy leaves and scarlet flowers and the harvested cannabis, cut and dried, resided in a square red biscuit tin with multi-coloured balloons painted round the sides and on the lid. My very first memories are of 154, Braemar Avenue Neasden, but let me tell you briefly how I got there.

 

My parents were young and they had married young, when they were both nineteen on 17th February 1959. Dad definitely married ‘up’ you might say and my mother’s Auntie Dorothy on asking her if Dad was ‘nice’ and receiving the reply ‘yes of course’, countered that with ‘I mean OUR kind of nice’ (which of course he wasn’t)! They were too poor to become parents when Mum fell pregnant in the Spring of 1960 and had abortion been legal I certainly wouldn’t be here now but that doesn’t upset me at all. Their relationship was all consuming and volatile to them.

 

Nettie & Ginger 1962
Nettie & Ginger 1962

 

The story of my birth is recounted accurately enough in Hellraiser, though for the record my Mother swears that she never tried heroin whilst pregnant (but at another time) and my Father swears more vehemently that she did, which is the way of things with the history of those two! In the writing of his own book he also disagreed violently with his sister about certain events. But the women (as always) capitulated and my Mother said that as long as I got some money out of it she didn’t give a toss what was said about her. My parents loved me and were proud of me as an extension of them (he was ‘Ginger Monster’ and I became ‘Little Monster’). I shared their early adulthood with all its extremes of violence and glory. The old values were as at odds in their own personalities as the slums were with the concrete edge of the architectural ‘brutalism’.

Excerpt from Ginette Baker’s Biography

The Rainbow: February, 1975

Baker Gurvitz Army Live

On the day of the ‘Gurvitz Army’ Rainbow gig; Janet and I got tarted up in our satin bomber jackets, flared jeans and platform shoes. A limo duly arrived to ferry us there and we both took great pleasure in waving to all the snooty neighbours out of the car window. Once at the gig, we stood with Mum at the entrance to the dressing room tunnel and were denied access by a zealous bouncer. We said,

 

‘Look mate, we know the guy in charge, his name is Jack, just get him and he’ll confirm who we are, etc, etc.’

 

But no, this bouncer thought we were a bunch of liars and said as much very rudely, which of course, resulted in him getting a thick ear from Mother, who bashed him so hard that her heavy jade bracelet broke into a thousand pieces and scattered noisily across the stone floor of corridor. Then, as if by magic ‘Jack’ suddenly did appear to let us in. We told Dad about our difficulties, so he had a fit and went and smashed the naughty bouncer’s room up. I felt a bit sorry for the guy I have to say, but power trips can often end badly. We had to walk across the back of the stage to get to our seats. This resulted in much whistling and cat calling from the audience. How we loved it!

 

That exciting walk across the stage pretending we were famous, reminded me of a time back in the ‘sixties when I had been with my parents at a Jeff Beck gig and Rod Stewart was with his band. Rod had looked after me for my Mum and Dad for about half an hour or so; he kept me entertained by clowning about and never being one to remain unmoved by a pretty face, whatever my age, I quickly became well smitten. Somebody or other then suggested that I might like to go up on stage and introduce a song. Rod led me to the front of the stage and reminded me to, ‘Mind the wires love’, as I stood for a moment, completely mesmerised by the reflected light that bounced back at me from the many spectacle wearing members of the audience.

 

‘This is Ginger Baker’s daughter Nettie’ said Rod, ‘and she’s going to introduce our next song’.

 

He handed me the mic. Rather tentatively I introduced ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ and everybody clapped.

Ginger’s influences

Ginger Baker with Air Force
Ginger Baker & Air Force

Ginger writes of how he started, “After sitting in with a band at a party [I’d never sat on a kit before [!!!the kids virtually forced me to play !!] I discovered that I could play the drums just like that… I heard two of the horn players remark “christ! we’ve got a drummer!” that was it… a light went on… I was a drummer…”

 

Ginger was heavily influenced by Jazz. He writes, “I started listening to music when I was very young 11/12 y.o. Listening to the big bands of the time, Ted Heath, Jack Parnell… always concentrating on the drummer… I got into the school gang… we were nicking records… that’s when I heard the Quintet of the Year – Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charlie Mingus and the great Max Roach, which totally blew me away…. so I was listening to all the jazz I could…. that’s when I first heard Phil….”

 

Phil Seamen was one of the top drummers on the London Jazz scene in late ‘50s, and when Ginger started out he got to see Phil play a lot.

 

Drummer Baby Dodds was also a major influence in his development. Ginger recalls: “The clarinet player gave me a pile of old 78’s Baby Dodds ‘Hear me talking to ya’, this was a major revelation and influenced my drumming enormously.”

 

Ginger met Phil Seamen in 1959: “I moved on to professional bands and into modern jazz, playing regularly at Ronnie Scott’s club and the Flamingo in London…. Phil heard me play and gave me an enormous compliment… that night he played me his collection of African drum records and this was like a great big door opening, a big light went on.”

 

“Phil told me that I was the only drummer who’d “got it. That was the next big step after Baby Dodds.”

 

After his success with Cream and Blind Faith, Ginger put Air Force together – a ground breaking fusion of Afro-Jazz Blues & Soul. As Nettie writes in the 1970 Archive: “a powerful & eclectic mix of some the best musicians that Ginger had known, admired & worked with over the years & it resulted in a fantastically strong (& underrated) output”.

 

Air Force had sparked Ginger’s interest in Africa again, and after their tour finished in 1971 he went to Africa for the first time.

 

I remember him returning from one of his many trips to Nigeria, wandering around the house playing a talking drum. He’d come up to me and Kofi and start drum talking to us, bending the sounds with the hide strings like the vocal chords of a voice. On many occasions we’d watch him pounding out complex rhythms on a large round metal African drum, sending the sounds of West Africa wafting through our quiet London suburb. He made the thick wooden sticks look light and easy to use, but when I picked them up, they were heavy and cumbersome.

 

Over the years, his style has become more refined and more musical. His toms sounding more like notes in a scale. Although Ginger is labeled as a Rock drummer, his driving force comes from West Africa and the jazz musicians of the Bebop era.

 

When Ginger plays, he tells a story; he takes you on a journey. Don’t ask him, just listen to him play – for him his drums are his own unique and personal self-expression.

It really IS us here!

Team Baker at Work

Perhaps you don’t believe it, but this website, forum, blog and Facebook Fan page are all run by the Baker family!  For the most part Nettie (Fan page), me (website), Mickey (a lot of other important stuff), Kofi (forum), Liz designing t-shirts, and of course Mr. B commenting, blogging and starting threads (with a bit of help) on the Drummers’ Forum… We really are all here!

 

We’ve been getting a ton of emails in from talktoginger@live.co.uk, and have been doing our best to read them all, and reply to them when we can. Currently Nettie is handling all these incoming and doing a grand job, I must say! And because we’ve also been getting some technical questions and comments we’ve created another email address – technical@gingerbaker.co.uk – where you can send all your technical questions and suggestions.

 

And let me say, we’re also having a lot of fun too! We’re enjoying the interaction – your input, comments, posts, and support!

On Practice….

For a period of a couple of years 1959 thru ..1961… I used to practise up to 8 hours a day on my kit…. after this I do very little practise….too much practise can be very damaging as a drummer gets to where he wants to play some lick he’s practised on the gig whether it fits or not, instead of listening to the band…..an ideal practise pad is a large hard backed book with a medium sized towel wrapped round it [dulls the sound and there’s very little bounce]

….once you have achieved the technique and ability to play what you need further practise is pointless….maximum of 30 mins a day on this pad is ideal….playing the rudiments paradiddles, paratriplets, mummy daddy’s and mummy daddy triplets…

Also you need to be able to play these rudiments at a slow tempo then stop and resume at a faster tempo..stop again etc etc….most drummers can play this stuff fast but to play slowly keeping each beat equal will improve timing and technique….if i’ve laid off for a while i just do 20 minutes a day on rudiments…that’s enough….don’t over do it..more harm than good comes of this…