Mon 30 Dec 2013
Ginger Baker is not only one of the greatest drummers ever but also a character who waits for a movie to be made about him. One day maybe a fiction movie will be made, until them we have ‘Beware of Mr. Baker’ – the documentary made by Jay Bulger. Rock documentaries are now quite ‘en vogue’ and there is a good reason for this. The big rock stars of the 60s and 70s, well, the ones who survived are now at the age of writing or telling on screen their memories. The younger generations may have heard little about ‘Cream’ or ‘Blind Faith’ but they do have an opportunity not only to watch part of their concerts (luckily filmed concerts technology developed just in time to catch much of their sounds, moves and the atmosphere of their live shows) but also to hear fist hand their version of the history of rock. And fans like me are definitely delighted.
‘Beware of Mr. Baker’ is centered around the interview reluctantly given by Baker at his ranch in South-Africa. He is one of those anti-social partners of discussion that you sometimes pity the interviewers about. He certainly loves to complain about his family, other musicians, life and fate in general – one of these guys who seem to love themselves much less than the world lives and admires them. We learn much more about his life from interviews with members of his family (his first wife seems still to have a crush on him, his son’s best memory is having made music with his father) and with other musicians. It’s the story of a life damaged by drugs abuse and a pattern of behavior that preempted Baker from establishing good working relations with any of his colleague musicians and eventually led to the early breaking of all bands he played in. Yet, it is also doubtful if in the absence of this temper and even of the use of drugs his music would have been the same. And music is what is left at the end from such personalities. Great music in the case of Mr. Baker.
Cream - the gathering of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker was a stellar event. In my view it simply gave another dimension to rock, developing progressive rock and setting the stage for hard rock and metal (in the documentary Ginger Baker strongly disagrees, of course). It is hard to believe that they played together for only two years (1966-1968). It is said that when Hendrix came to London the only musicians he asked to play with were Cream, I do not know if this ever happened.
However, the disagreements between Baker and Bruce were so violent that they led to the end of Cream, fortunately not before a farewell concert at Albert Hall.
Next step was for Baker and Clapton Blind Faith where they joined forces with Steve Winwood and Rick Grech. This super-group did not last more than two years either, but they also left one concert of legend in Hyde Park.
His own group Air Force formed in 1970 did not last more than one year. A great solo in this recording – one of Ginger’s many great solos.
Ginger Baker spent the next six years (until 1976) in Africa. Here is is 1971 jamming with Nigerian afro-jazz musicians in Lagos, Nigeria.
At the beginning of the 90s Baker played with Masters of Reality.
Baker and Bruce were back on stage together in 1993 with Gary Moore in BBM
The Ginger Baker Trio was also short-lived (1994-1995) but we are left with this recording of a concert in Germany.
2005 was the year of the Cream reunion on the stage at Royal Albert Hall.
Is the trip over? Not yet! After being filmed and interviewed for the documentary Ginger Baker was on stage in 2013 with Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion, a quartet comprising Baker, saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and percussionist Abass Dodoo.
We may still hear from the giant of the drummers.