19 October 2019 06:51
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Cream … (from left) Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton. You could hear Baker's jazz training on the records he cut with his first band, the Graham Bond Organisation, but he came into his own when he left Bond to form Cream. The gulf between the music on the Graham Bond Organisation's album The Sound of 65 and Cream's debut, Fresh Cream – recorded barely a year later – speaks volumes about the speed at which pop was moving in the mid-60s. Blind Faith barely lasted long enough to complete a US tour, but Baker – frequently the onstage focus rather Winwood or the increasingly reticent Clapton – apparently enjoyed the experience, subsequently attempting to repeat the supergroup formula with Ginger Baker's Air Force, ominously named after the section of Duke Ellington's orchestra comprised of heroin addicts. Recorded live, their eponymous debut was muffled, patchy and once again, wildly over-hyped, but it offered up a game and groundbreaking attempt to meld rock with jazz and the African music with which Baker was increasingly obsessed.
A second, studio-recorded album also had moments when the fusion of styles gelled perfectly, not least the potent Graham Bond-penned closer 12 Gates of the City, but the Air Force's music simply wasn't commercial enough to bear the weight of expectation placed on it, nor the cost of transporting its vast lineup – which at one stage featured three percussionists – around on tour. By 1971, Baker was in Lagos, building a recording studio and collaborating with Fela Kuti, whom he'd known since the early 60s, when Kuti – then studying in London – had begun hanging around Soho's jazz and blues clubs. Kuti returned the favour, appearing on Baker's solo album Stratavarious, a fantastic psychedelic Afro-rock confection that demonstrated how intuitively Baker grasped Nigerian music, but his African sojourn eventually came to grief. There's nothing exactly wrong with their three albums of straightforward hard rock, but their contents are a long way from the innovations of Cream or Afrobeat or Stratavarious. He spent the rest of his career dividing his time between session work and a succession of intriguing, if uneven, solo projects that lurched between world music (Ginger Baker: African Force), free improvisation (Unseen Rain; No Material, a challenging collaboration with saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and others) and jazz: Going Back Home (1994) and Coward of the County (1999) both received critical praise, underlining that, unlike most of his rock peers, Baker could cut it as a straightforward jazz drummer.
Cream were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, briefly reuniting to play three songs, then teamed up again in 2005 for a series of concerts in London and New York. Baker's death will see him feted as one of rock's most influential musicians, but he scoffed at such accolades, insisting: "Drummers are really nothing more than time-keepers." Legendary drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. Co-founder of Cream, Ginger also played with Blind Faith, Hawkwind and Fela Kuti in a long career. Pioneering rock music in the 1960s, he maintained a jazz style and sound, helping build the unique profile of his band Cream, founded with Clapton in 1966. The group, which also included Jack Bruce, drove a change in rock music which would heavily influence the likes of Led Zeppelin and later artists.
Baker also experimented with percussion from across the globe, and held a long-time interest in African music. Ginger Baker, one of the co-founders of Cream, has died at the age of 80. British drummer Ginger Baker, a member of Cream, Hawkwind and Blind Faith, amongst others, circa 1975 Ginger Baker, the drummer and co-founder of rock band Cream, has died at the age of 80. On behalf of his family, a tweet from Baker's official Twitter account said: "We are very sad to say that Ginger has passed away peacefully in hospital this morning. Image: Ginger Baker, pictured in 2015, has died at the age of 80 The rocker earned a reputation as "rock's first superstar drummer" during the 1960s and he is credited as a pioneer of drumming in genres including jazz fusion and world music. Image: Cream band members Eric Clapton (L), Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce in 1967 Baker founded Cream with Eric Clapton in 1966, and despite the pair clashing often, the band forced global sales success and a lasting musical legacy. The group, which also included Jack Bruce, drove a change in rock music which later influenced the likes of Led Zeppelin and other artists. Baker performed lengthy drum solos, most notably in the Cream song Toad, which was one of the earliest recorded examples in rock music.