Sunday, September 18, 2011


As a drummer now for 4/5th's of my life, going back now 40 years, I was heavily influenced by drummers of the sixties like Ginger Baker and Mitch Mitchell. Not that I play like either of the two, au contraire, but if I could I certainly would. Yeah, I can play their parts on most of their works, but having seen videos and listening to some of the stuff they laid down that wasn't more commercial in nature, I know well what these folks are capable of. Massive hyper-technical drumming that would blind the drummers who play the massive hyper-technical zillion drum and cymbal setups.

A brief example of this virtuosity can be found in the double Sonor bass drum kit phase that Mitchell briefly visited in the late sixties, the album of which escapes me but I'll try to update late. Sheer lightning drumming of a blinding nature, unlike anything else he played with Hendrix.

What Mitchell and Baker share are several things. First, both have a strong jazz backround, which they merged with a hard blues drumming style to make what became the blueprint, if you will, for hard rock and roll drumming in a trio format.

Second, taking their respective jazz backrounds, they each had their own take on setups. Mitchell's became much emulated (24" bass drum, one wing tom, snare, two floor toms and one ride and 2 or 3 crashes, and a high hat) while Baker's double bass kit was more idiosyncratic with stacked cymbals and such. Both players used kits were mostly Ludwigs.

I'll say this: if you have the right folks in the rock trio, meaning guitar-bass-drums, it can be no tighter musically. Three people can merge better than four, anyday of the week. Sometimes four or more is better, but with the right three members, you can't beat a trio.

And therein lay the lesson of Baker and Mitchell. Be simple, be sparse, but when you do speak, speak loudly and say something worth hearing.

The whole origin of this post just came when for some strange reason today I recalled an article I read in a music magazine about Baker way back in the mid-80's. It was a short interview piece with Baker, who by the way my good Irish friend Patrick and BIG "THE CREAM" fan calls "JEN-JAR BAY-KURR". It was one of a now defunct group of magazines, like Musician or Rhythm, that had the article. I tore the article out and stuck it in a notebook that houses a few other articles I've been struck by over the years, and perhaps one day I'll update this reference as well.

At the time, the mid-80's, Baker was living in Italy outside of some small village on an olive farm. His home was a plaster and rock type home, if memory serves, on top of a huge hill on his property. There were pictures with the article showing a relaxing terrain with a white washed plaster house on a hill, perhaps a several hundred year old home, with large windows cranked open.

His Ludwig White Marine Pearl double bass set was also in a picture or two, more or less what he played with Cream. The article said that when Baker would jam out, that his neighbors and the nearby villagers would gather and listen as his sounds resounded through the hills and valleys.

At the time, Baker had released a great CD with Bill Laswell producing called Horses and Trees, an instrumental CD I still listen to regularly. The story was that Baker just walked into the studio and laid down tracks on the drums, and then Laswell came in with a crowd of NYC and Middle Eastern and African musicians and laid down the music. It's a great CD and it rocks like nothing else.

The focus of the article was not all of that, however, but involved Ginger's pontifications about "How all time moves in Four", with which I agree wholeheartedly in terms of music. Mr. Baker does understand his mathematics when it comes to applying them to music and various time signatures, all root based in four.

When you think of four, and play in four, and subdivide four, and play different parts of the count of four, then you're moving in time and you're making time. Add to that, a drummer has four limbs, capable of playing independently of each other. They call that four way independence.

So all of those thoughts have been floating around my head today, thinking of various Baker tunes moving in four. And how I'd like, right now, to be esconced in that Italian hilltop home from that article, with a nice drum set and nowhere else to be but there, watching the olives grow.

1 comment:

  1. Great music! Although it's dating me...oy.

    Momma Fargo