Wednesday 2 December 2015

On Stage: Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion at North Sea Jazz Club Amsterdam

The question “who is the best drummer ever” is quite useless I think. There have been so many great drummers around and there still are, that are impossible to compare, so it's a waste of time trying to answer it. But if you ask people, quite a few will answer that it must be Ginger Baker. Although he is still playing regularly I never had the chance to see him until now.

Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion at North Sea Jazz Club Amsterdam, November 26 2015

When you think about the legendary drummer, you automatically think about Africa, the continent he grew really fond of and the one he got so much inspiration from. As he explains himself he’s already 76 years old and things aren't so smooth for him any more. He’s playing with some fine musicians, Pee Wee Ellis on saxophone, Alec Dankworth on bass and percussionist Abass Dodoo. All the ingredients for an explosive night you’d think.

But Baker’s age is starting to get to him and he’s not in great shape. The rhythmic and groovy compositions by Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins and himself, sound uninspired and simply aren't really exciting. Ellis also looks far from being in great form and when he’s not playing he is sitting on his stool looking tired. Dodoo and Dankworth are the only ones that have something to show tonight with some great sounding solos. Especially Dodoo is showing great skills behind his percussion set, playing with a big smile on his face.

Baker is occasionally addressing the sold out venue, sounding short-winded, but explosive as always telling someone to “fuck off” after shouting out something. Now and then we get to see some sparkles of the old master’s brilliance and his wonderful technique. He tells us he’s not playing his own drum kit and the setup is not to his liking. Especially the pedals’ setup is causing him trouble and give him cramp. In the end it's clear that his best years are behind him, but still it's wonderful to see the living legend in the flesh behind a drum kit.

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