Glasgow Jazz Festival

Old Fruitmarket

An Evening with Ginger Baker


An Evening with Ginger Baker was indeed what the legendary drummer with Cream delivered. Despite health issues, which he went into in some detail, Baker still drums and leads his current band, Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion, with authority if without quite the stamina of yore. His quartet played just the four numbers, beginning with Wayne Shorter’s Footprints and continuing in similar modal style with increasingly African flavours.

What the evening lacked in musical duration, however, it made up for in Baker’s willingness to engage with his audience. Each number was prefixed or suffixed with either a health update or a ruefully wry recollection, such as the time Baker drove his car off the Atlas mountains and landed in an olive tree, and in the Q & A session that opened the second half, he was good value, giving by turns generous, entertaining and often insightful responses or amusingly short shrift.

Baker’s is a life that has ranged from trad jazz to hard rock and from being welcomed into the inner sanctum of African superstars to playing polo, and he covered quite a lot of it.

His parting shot, Why? – complete with audience participation and a smoothly executed detour into   Wade in the Water – is Baker’s rage against ill-fortune. Everything happens to him, and at seventy-seven, he’s still being ripped off by record companies. It’s a more jovial tune than its context would suggest, though, and with double bassist Alec Dankworth switching to bass guitar and saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis ruminating over Baker and percussionist Abass Dodoo’s forthright drum patterns it closed the evening with a mood of celebratory defiance.