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.”
The focus of this lesson is the teaching of a variety of great swing and bop tunes and the techniques needed to play them. All the songs are well known standards, and their arrangements demonstrate various ways to approach this material for solo fingerstyle guitar.
Titles include: Back Home in Indiana, Up a Lazy River, Liza, Summertime, Take the A Train and Stompin' at the Savoy
82 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!
Review: This unlocked a lot of things for me--Thank you, Mr. Baker. Duck Baker's way of teaching jazz improvisation over a trad-blues style alternating bass approach was one of the big influences of my life, unlocking the fretboard for me. This and Godel, Escher Bach are basically the books that changed my life--that one has lots of people praising it, but no reviews for this?
Well, that's OK, I'm glad. I'm not sure, as a player who wants people to think I'm clever, that I want everyone to find out how easy this approach is (easy is a compliment--that means the teacher knows how to break it down and feed it to the willing learner). This is primarily for players who have already taken some steps into alternating-bass fingerstyle acoustic--Travis picking, or whatever you call it. When you combine that approach with improvised lead lines, then you get to play improvised “leads” over your own “rhythm guitar” accompaniment, more or less.
A lot of intermediate players can't do this--they can play “rhythm”, meaning chords, or they can play “lead”, meaning single-note melody, but not both at the same time, at least not spontaneously. This fellow Duck can show you how to do both at the same time, improvising. The alternating bass is basically a two-note arpeggio that traces the chord changes, and then the other fingers and strings are free enough to create lead lines in sync with the rhythm--a thumping, solid rhythm if you're good at this stuff, with an independent lead that can be relatively complex and quick at the same time, without having to be a virtuoso. So that you can--as one guy with an acoustic guitar--play the head of Take The A Train, for example, and then improvise leads while still keeping the chord changes going in the bass.
Then, having learned how to do that more or less, you can spend the rest of your life trying to get any damn good at it, which is pretty hard, actually. Mr. Baker's teaching is excellent, but also his playing, with touch and finesse, is an inspirational example to aspire to, so you get the double whammy, which is nice. This guy can teach AND do.
I once had the opportunity to meet Duck Baker, during an intermission of a show he did in Tokyo, way back when, I can't remember when. We chatted over a beer as the only gaijin in the bar, and at one point he was bemoaning some of the difficulties of the underpaid, under appreciated (but brilliant, if anyone cares) traveling musician. I said something like, “Yes, we all have pretty bad days most days. But at the end of your day, unlike mine, you can pick up a guitar and make it sing like a bird. You know how to access the magic of music, basically at will, with an acoustic guitar and nothing else--you know how to do that. That must make it all a little better for you.” He said, “Yes, you're right, it does.” Music does make everything a little better, and Mr. Baker is a teacher who helped transmit it to me with this very video and a couple of others--so, thanks, Duck. – DavidBennett/Amazon Customer Review