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Coward of the County

Ginger Baker

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Album Review

During the early '90s, Ginger Baker gradually established his reputation as a genuine jazz musician, proving that he was no rocker who was merely dabbling. Of course, anyone familiar with Cream will realize that he was among rock's jazziest drummers, but his series of records with Bill Frisell convinced many doubters of his musical merit. On one of his tours, he happened to hear trumpeter Ron Miles and bassist Artie Moore play in Denver. Impressed with the two musicians, he relocated to Colorado and assembled the Denver Jazz Quintet-to-Octet. The DJQ20 is a shifting group of musicians that has Baker, Miles, and Moore at its core and, as it turns out, their elasticity is what gives them strength. For their first effort, Coward of the County, they're joined by a saxophonist, along with a variety of local Denver musicians, and the results are startlingly fresh. Using hard bop as a foundation, they're unafraid to venture into challenging territory, where they pull together free, funk, and rock into unpredictable combinations. Baker wrote two of the songs, including the opening tribute, "Cyril Davies," but the remainder of the record is devoted to originals by Miles, who proves himself to be an inventive composer, capable of lovely lyrical ballads ("Megan Showers") and experimental jazz. Often, Coward of the County veers into unpredictable territory — witness how the funky fusion on "Ginger Spice" moves into dissonant improvs, how the title track is colored by pedal steel and organ, or how "Daylight" is a series of surprises, as its gentle beginnings are submerged by waves of distorted guitar that fade back, revealing darkly beautiful textures. Not only are the compositions challenging, they're delivered with ease by the group, which are remarkably empathetic and graceful. In fact, it's a testimony to Baker's skills as a leader that he never dominates, preferring to let all the parts weave together to create a full, rich sound. And by doing so, he has made Coward of the County, in a way, a showcase for Miles, since his compositions become the focal point. They signal a young writer of considerable skill, ambition, and talent — and he's not a bad trumpeter, either.

Biography

Born: August 19, 1939 in Lewisham, London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Ginger Baker was rock's first superstar drummer and the most influential percussionist of the 1960s. There were other drummers who were well-known to the public before him, including the Beatles' Ringo Starr and, in England at the end of the '50s, the Shadows' Tony Meehan, but they were famous primarily for the groups in which they played and for attributes beyond their musicianship. Baker made his name entirely on his playing, initially as showcased in Cream, but far transcending even that trio's...
Full Bio
Coward of the County, Ginger Baker
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  • $7.92
  • Genres: Pop, Music, Jazz, Rock
  • Released: Apr 06, 1999

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