Trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, tuba, trombone
Born: September 14, 1952 in California
Died: October 23, 2001 in Holland
Multi-instrumentalist With Command of Many Styles
Copyright © 2001
The New Orleans Jazz Ascona website reports the death of brass and reed player Tom Baker - see www.jazzascona.com
New Orleans Jazz Ascona mourns death of Tom Baker
On October 23, a mournful event shook not only the world of classical jazz, but New Orleans Jazz Ascona as well. The sad news of Tom Baker's sudden death arrived unexpectedly. The musician, who for years was one of the feature artists of the Ascona festival, passed away in Holland, owing to a heart attack. He was 49 years old.
Born in California and transplanted to Australia at the age of 19, Tom Baker was considered not only one of the main jazzmen of his country, but also one of the best classical jazz trumpeters. Baker was active on the international jazz scene since the second half of the 70s and during his career collaborated with renowned musicians such as Cab Calloway, Warren Vache, Scott Hamilton, Dick Wellstood, Doc Cheatam, Bob Wilber, Ralph Sutton, Arnett Cobb and many others.
From the 80s onward Baker was often in Europe (for example at the Breda festival), distinguishing himself for his versatility: Baker, in fact, was as much at ease with traditional jazz as with mainstream; as much with swing as with bebop. For this reason, as well as for his extraordinary gift as a poly-instrumentalist (in addition to the trumpet he also excelled at the saxophone, the clarinet, the bass tuba and the trombone, his latest passion), Baker was a regular guest of the New Orleans Jazz Ascona festival during the past three years.
At Ascona, he played alongside the event's main performers, and as a "special guest" in several bands. Appreciated for his amiability and well liked, Tom Baker was going to be at Ascona for the 2002 edition of the festival. "Unfortunately - says art director Karl Heinz Ern - fate decided otherwise. We lost an extraordinary artist and a great friend. We will miss him. Very much."
W. Royal Stokes writes:
Multi-brass/reed traditional jazz genius Tom Baker died at 49 of a heart attack while touring in the Netherlands. I have been devastated by this loss to the jazz world. I got to know Tom at Jazz Ascona 2000 and renewed the acquaintance at JA 2001.
I was astonished at his skills and interpretive abilities of Louis, Bunk, JATP, you name it, all made his own on cornet, trumpet, trombone, and alto saxophone. In fact, just a couple of days ago I received a CD he did with fellow Australian cornetist Bob Barnard and he's playing all those plus tenor and clarinet!
While the late Tom Baker was arguably Australia's most popular and talented jazz artist, he regarded Bob Barnard as the true master and this was their only studio recorded project. The other musicians Kevin Hunt, David Seidel and Len Barnard had both played and toured with both Baker and Barnard and so made up the line up for this album with its Southern theme and little hints at a southern Australian relativity.
Tom Baker shows off his multi-instrumentalist skills on this continually entertaining release. He teams up with several fellow Australians -- cornetist Bob Barnard, pianist Kevin Hunt, bassist David Seidel, and drummer Len Barnard -- for a set of songs whose titles refer to the South of the U.S., including two versions of the title cut, "Pardon My Southern Accent," "Louisiana," "When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam," and "Old Yazoo." Barnard, a major veteran cornetist, has "Big Butter and Egg Man" and "Meet Me Where They Play the Blues" as his features, but he also often interacts with Baker throughout the date. Baker plays tenor on three numbers, two on trombone and one on clarinet, although cornet is clearly his main axe. This CD (which may be difficult to find) is easily recommended to hot jazz fans. ~ Scott Yanow, All Music Guide USA
+ AWARD WINNER "BEST CD 1997" UNIVERSITY RADIO 5UV JAZZ AT SIX (SOUTH AUSTRALIA).