LIVE: Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion @ The Egg, 6/16/15

June 18th, 2015, 3:00 pm by Greg
Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker

Review by Brett Williams
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Once, in days of yore, Peter Edward “Ginger” Baker was the tall, gaunt, fire–maned maniac who provided the rhythmic backbone to Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton in Cream. His style, brewed of equal parts feverish aggression and jazz–oriented precision, earned him a reputation as a drummer that has only ever been exceeded, arguably, by his reputation for drug use on a Keith Richards kind of scale, and for his legendarily nuclear blow-ups with band-mate Jack Bruce.

That was Ginger Baker then.

Ginger Baker now is a haggard, bespectacled septuagenarian. His distinctive red hair is a (mostly) tame shock of white. He has a degenerative spinal condition. He has COPD from a decade’s long, unrepentant smoking habit. He admits to being exhausted and in pain after every performance. My companion for the show, a drummer and ER nurse, spent most of the second set alternately admiring Ginger’s flam technique, and reviewing CPR in his head, just in case Mr. Baker was stricken mid-song (and it seemed a close-run thing whenever he stood up).

Yet two things about Ginger Baker remain undiminished. First – although it was never really on display Tuesday night – he remains, by nearly all accounts, a grumpy, grumpy man (he did tell us to shut up once, for applauding too much). Second – and this is the important one – he can still drum.

God, can he drum.

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