Duck Baker is one of the most highly regarded fingerstyle guitarists of his generation. He is unique among jazz guitarists in that his repertoire spans the entire history of the music from ragtime through swing to modern masters like Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols to free improvisation. Baker’s devotion to American music also encompasses more traditional forms like blues, gospel, and Appalachian music and its Scots-Irish ancestry. This catholicism has been likened to Europeans who perform the classical repertoire from renaissance through to modern music.
Duck was born Richard R. Baker IV in 1949 and grew up in Richmond, Virginia. He passed his teenage years playing in rock and blues bands before becoming interested in acoustic blues. Local ragtime pianist Buck Evans was a major influence on Baker’s evolution. By the time he moved to San Francisco in the early seventies, he was performing the wide range of material heard on his first record for the Kicking Mule label, “There’s Something for Everyone in America”. In addition to developing his solo style, Baker joined a bluegrass band and immersed himself in the local swing jazz scene, forming a duo with guitarist Thom Keats and performing with such Bay Area luminaries as Burt Bales and Robin Hodes. Baker remains active in this music, leading a trio with guitarist Bob Wilson and fiddler Tony Marcus.
Duck’s most ambitious record, “Spinning Song”, which is devoted to the music of Herbie Nichols, got rave reviews in Jazz Times, Cadence, Coda, and the New York Times, and helped establish Baker as an important voice in the world of fingerstyle jazz guitar. Various critics named “Spinning Song” among the best jazz records of 1997 in Cadence and Coda magazines, and it placed high on the Cadence reader’s poll of that year. Acoustic Guitar magazine dubbed it “one of the best guitar records ever recorded – by anybody.”
This lesson focuses on various bop and modern jazz compositions. The approach for the fingerstyle guitarist differs from those used in playing swing tunes in that the harmonic structure is more sophisticated and the bass lines typical of swing are inappropriate to the more contemporary styles of modern jazz. The music of Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Benny golson, Sonny Rollins and the South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) is featured in this dvd.
Titles include: Blue Monk, Sweet and Lovely, Out of the Past, St. Thomas, Tintiyana and Mr. Jelly Roll Soul
74 minutes • Level 3/4 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: "This is a remarkable trilogy of videos from Duck Baker on the art of fingerstyle jazz guitar. Melody Maker describes Baker as: 'the kind of guy you instinctively feel should be internationally declared as some kind of innovator's master, not only for his sheer technique as an indisputable guitar virtuoso, but for his free-ranging spirit.' The origins of that opinion are clearly evident in these videos, as Baker brings his magnificent guitar work and expansive knowledge of guitar to life. More important than that virtuosity, however, is his ability to teach and explain his arrangements and ideas. Produced by Stefan Grossman, music and tab for the tunes is included withthe split-screen-filmed video which allows for simultaneous up-close viewing of left and right hand movements. I highly recommend these to intermediate level players. There is something very special about Baker that pervades all of his work. Some artists are truly exquisite musicians who inspire, but they also intimidate other players. Baker takes a tune like Take the A Train and convinces you that it was a guitar tune arranged for a big band. Here is someone whose work is genuinely inspiring and he presents it in a manner that puts it just within your reach -- if you want to work at it." – Sing Out!