Playing in Cream was an “albatross” says drumming legend


Interview and preview: Ginger Baker. Rye College, Saturday August 25, 7.30pm.

THEY are one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, but drummer Ginger Baker says that Cream has been an albatross around his neck.

Pigeon holed by by the media and music industry as a rock drummer, few appreciate that Ginger Baker has always seen himself as a jazz drummer and began his musical career in South London as as an explosive and innovative drummer with a number of jazz bands, breaching convention and laying down an off-beat in the style of Art Blakey.

Many are completely unaware of his love of Afro-beat and African music and that he collaborated extensively with Fela Kuti and Nigerian drumming legend Tony Allen.

Now, at the age of 72, Baker is returning to his roots and first love by taking up the sticks at Rye International Jazz Festival.

He will be joined on stage by Pee Wee Ellis on sax, Alec Dankworth on bass and African percussionist Abass Dodoo.

Even Baker’s trade-mark style of using left and right bass drums on stage was inspired by Duke Ellington. He got a kit custom made.

Asked if he felt misunderstood as a musician with everyone placing him in rock, he replied: “Cream has been something of an albatross for me.”

Before taking up a career in music Baker had set his sights on becoming a professional cyclist with the aim of competing in the Tour De France. When we speak to him this week he is taking a keen interest in Bradley Wiggins’ Olympic Road Trial and was full of praise for Wiggins for triumphing in the Tour.

Asked if he still gets in the saddle, Baker laughs: “I am 72, I am an old cripple now.”

Baker has lived in South Africa for years and this is a rare chance to see the man as he resumes his musical career playing the type of music he loves.

Tickets for Ginger Baker and Jazz Confusion are £22 and can be purchased through th festival website or from Grammar School Records and CID Property in Rye.

Earlier in the day on Saturday 25 Ginger will giving a drum workshop at the college, from 2pm – 4pm. Tickets for this are £6.