CQAF: Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion

Ginger Baker und Jonas Hellborg 1987Back to the Cathedral Arts Marquee again and this time to see Ginger Baker Jazz ConfusionĀ – it certainly left me in a confused state, but more of that later.

Ginger Baker, where really do you start? Innovative drummer, part of several classic and legendary bands. The man has been through it all and back several times. Still playing live in a variety of guises at 75 years old and for that reason alone qualifies as a musical legend.

Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion played their debut gig at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London in April 2012. Since that they have toured extensively through Europe and further afield to Japan and the US. Their musical style has been described as a “highly charged mix of jazz, fusion and African sounds,” well outside my usual comfort zone of hard rock and heavy metal. They do say that music has the ability to “broaden the mind” though.

I noted from the pre-show advertising that no support had been listed. Bearing in mind Ginger’s age and the fact that Saturday London shows featured a short set I expected similar this evening in Belfast. The Jazz Experience line up consisted of Ghanaian powerhouse percussionist Abass Dodoo, Cleo Laine’s son Alec Dankworth on bass and a last minute stand in sax player as unfortunately a medical operation had resulted in the absence of jazz giant Pee Wee-Ellis on tenor sax.

Ginger Baker’s recent show in London featured songs from all his previous musical incarnations, but this set was primarily only recognisable by jazz aficionados. The music played was a mix of Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins and originals of the absent Pee Wee Ellis and Ginger himself. Quite a challenge then for me personally with both an unknown musical genre and also songs.

The musicians were excellent and Ginger certainly lived up to all expectations with his ability and talent. The drum solos that were executed illustrated prowess and a power which belied a 75 year old man but unfortunately I felt that the absence of lead guitar and vocals tended to leave the songs a little sparse, serving as one instrumental improvisation after another. I appreciate the skills and musical talent of those elements served up by Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion and judging by the audience reaction, clapping throughout and showing their delight, they enjoyed every moment. Mark Dean, GiggingNI.com