MUSIC REVIEW: Ginger Baker @ Fesival Marquee, Belfast
Don’t let people tell you that Ginger Baker is grumpy. With a droll wit and a tinder dry sense of humour, the 74 year-old drummer gave Belfast a night to remember, with his jazz fusion style in the band he calls Jazz Confusion, playing for a packed and hushed marquee, as part of Cathedral Quarter Arts festival.
Jazz giant Pee Wee Ellis couldn’t make the gig, as he was having an operation on his lip - “a problem for a horn-player” said Baker wryly, whilst wishing him all the best. Fortunately, as he said “jazz musicians can read music” and so veteran sax-player Andy Sheppard was able to step in and do a sterling job, even after Baker introduced him as “Alan.” It seemed like the evening was faltering, when Baker also told us he didn’t have his normal drums and that his drum roadie was off, “doing an exam, or something.”
But with his grinning Ghanaian “friend and bodyguard” Abass DoDoo on buoyant percussion to beat out an African rhythm, Baker relaxed into a physically gruelling set, showing many flashes of his old brilliance, when he was a member of supergroup Cream.
“This one’s a mindblower, a Baker destroyer,” he’d growl and launch into Ginger Spice. Then another African vibe came to play, with a “song I wrote in Algeria, after I drove off the side of one of the Atlas mountains and ended up in an olive tree.” Visibly gasping for breath, he took a break, but returned in fine form, prompting a couple of shout-outs from the audience. “Hecklers will be shot,” he joked, to loud laughs from the crowd. Classics in the set, with a workmanlike Alec Dankworth on bass came from the pen of Thelonius Monk and a final crowd-pleaser from Sonny Rollins, when Baker returned for an encore, sent us happy into the night. Ginger, you’re a genius and a survivor. Keep on drumming.
For more information on events happening as part of the Cathedral Quarter Fesival visit www.cqaf.com.