Members of the jazz community in Bloomington will pay tribute to the late David Baker with a concert at Bear’s Place tonight.
Baker, a distinguished IU Jazz professor and award-winning composer, created the jazz program at the Jacobs School of Music. The tribute is a part of the Jazz Fables Concert series, which commemorates its 27th anniversary this year.
The Jazz Fables Quintet, founded in 1977, will be playing a variety of Baker’s compositions in his honor, accompanied by two other local jazz musicians. In total, the seven performers include three IU jazz professors, two IU jazz alumni and one current IU jazz student.
David Miller, founding member of the Quintet and current IU jazz professor, said the Quintet will play “Kentucky Oysters,” a modern jazz blues waltz, songs from Baker’s Bebop Band albums and songs that Baker used to play with his wife Lida Baker during his 20 years in the Jazz Fables Concert Series.
“It’s going to be more or less a celebration of David Baker for the first time since his passing,” Miller said.
Miller said Baker’s presence at IU influenced him to attend the University, despite being a non-music major.
“I was inspired by the fact that there was a great jazz educator, who had originally been more well-known as a jazz instrumentalist, who was making a name for himself,” Miller said. “He’s one of the reasons that I came to Indiana University.”
Miller said Baker was the first guest who played Bear’s Place in the fall of 1989. Baker then continued to play at Bear’s Place throughout his time at IU.
“What I can do at Jazz Fables is honor the music he played with us for the 20 years we had the very good fortune to have him as part of our concert series,” Miller said.
Miller said he credits Baker with the success of the concert series and the growth of the Bloomington jazz scene.
“I don’t know if the Bloomington jazz scene would exist anywhere near the level it’s currently at without the jazz studies department that David founded,” Miller said. “I’ve been able to play with all kinds of incredibly great jazz talent because of David’s presence here.”
Michael Eaton, an alumnus of the jazz studies program who will be playing with the Quintet, said he remembers Baker as a mentor. Eaton, who is now a jazz recording artist in New York City, said while he will not be able to attend the formal celebration of Baker’s life later this year, he is glad he has the opportunity to honor Baker by playing his music.
“I think it’s a way of also getting to hear his music again with fresh ears and getting to experience his compositional mind again,” Eaton said. “I’m excited and honored to be chosen to pay tribute to him this way.”