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Louie Bellson

Since it was my dear Barbara's birthday week, and the last time she had seen him was with Blind Faith in Helsinki, Ginger Baker this last Saturday at Yoshi's was a must see.  With Pee Wee Ellis (James Brown/Van Morrison/CTI Records) on sax, Alec Dankworth (yes, Johnny and Cleo Lane's son!) on acoustic and electric bass, and master Ghanian drummer Abass Dodoo, the group's lack of a western chord instrument left plenty of room for Ginger and Abass to explore African polyrhythms as melody and harmony.  Originally becoming known playing for the Graham Bond Organisation (along with Jack Bruce and John McLaughlin) he became famous for his participation in Cream and the short-lived Blind Faith.  Influenced by Gene Krupa and Louie Bellson (the first to use double bass drums) Baker used to fly to New York during his Cream days to study with Elvin Jones at every opportunity.  I realized Saturday that it is his complete command of traditional drum rudiments, a western military tradition, coupled with his love of African rhythms, that gives him such a unique style.  A style more influential to rock than jazz, but this group transcends categorization.  His work with Fela is a must have.  And with this group, Ginger, who jokes openely from the stage about still being alive, has come home.  To the jazz of his fifties' youth (they opened with Footprints, which I often open with) to his 70's experimentations with Fela and Ghana High Life.  Always inspirational to see a mature artist keep pushing it.   

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