No vacation can deflect the march of time. I am sad to learn of the death yesterday at 84 of the trombonist, cellist, composer and music educator David Baker. He is pictured here, on the right, with Dizzy Gillespie. Baker founded Indiana University’s Jazz Studies program and taught at IU for decades. Dozens of his students went on to distinguished jazz careers. He was a trombonist with the Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson and Quincy Jones bands and then with George Russell’s quintet. Baker had to give up the instrument after his jaw was injured in a car crash. Eventually, he switched to cello but achieved his greatest renown and acclaim as a teacher and theorist. His instruction books include the influential Jazz Improvisation: A Comprehensive Method of Study for All Players (1969).
For a full obituary, see The Indiana Star.
Baker’s solo with Russell on the blues called “Honesty” (1961) gives an idea of the compositional approach he often applied to the construction of a solo, including in this case a wry use of the cycle of fifths. From the album Ezzthetics, the band is Russell, piano; Baker, trombone; Don Ellis, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, alto saxophone; Steve Swallow, bass; and Joe Hunt, drums.
Dave Baker, RIP