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Tom Baker

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b. John Thomas Baker, 9 September 1952, Oakdale, California, USA, d. 23 October 2001, the Netherlands. Baker first studied the piano, sang in the school choir, and at the age of 15 began to play the trumpet. His family moved to Australia in 1973. He played in the Ray Price band and then in 1975 formed the San Francisco Jazz Band, touring nationally before taking the unit to America in 1977; during this visit the group became one of the first foreign bands to be invited to the Sacramento Dixieland Jubilee. By 1980 Baker was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, playing brass and reeds with equal authority. He again toured the USA, playing with mainstream musicians including Scott Hamilton, Dick Wellstood, Warren Vaché Jnr. and veteran artists Cab Calloway, Helen Forrest, Doc Cheatham and Ralph Sutton. During the 80s Baker toured extensively, becoming a popular performer in France and the Netherlands. He formed the Chicago Seven and the Swing Street Orchestra, both units dedicated to playing the classic swing styles of the 30s and 40s. In 1982 he formed Groove City, an outfit that allowed him to experiment more with modern styles, and they supported Oscar Peterson and Anita O’Day at a Sydney Opera House concert. Throughout the decade, Baker became a familiar figure playing in various combinations at jazz venues and festivals. In 1991 he recorded the superb Absolutely Positively, a collection of standards capturing the spirit and vitality of the era he admired so much. Three years later Baker successfully toured Japan. Returning to Australia, he formed a quartet with guitarist Ian Date and began a series of highly regarded albums with the independent La Brava label. Baker was a talented versatile musician in the traditional and mainstream styles and his presence on the contemporary Australian jazz scene offered a refreshing contrast to the many young musicians devoted to modernism.

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