Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Baker, David (David Nathaniel Baker Jr.)

Baker, David [David Nathaniel Baker Jr.], trombonist, cellist, composer, educator; b. Indianapolis, Ind., 21 December 1931.

Baker received both bachelor's (1953) and master's (1954) degrees in music education from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. While at the University he played in several big bands, including Lionel Hampton's. He subsequently taught music in small colleges and public schools. He also worked in the West Coast orchestras of Stan Kenton andd Maynard Ferguson in 1956 and 1957, headed his own band back in Indianapolis in 1958-59, then joined George Russell's combos for three years, while also spending some time in Quincy Jones's orchestra. He was a rising star on trombone, but an injury he'd sustained in 1953 ultimately caused him to switch to cello in 1962, on which he recorded with Charles Tyler in 1967. In 1966 he became chairman of the dept. of jazz studies at Indiana Univ. Baker picked the trombone back up in the '70s, playing on the 1972 album Living Time with Bill Evans and George Russell conducting. He has studied with a wide range of master teachers, performers and composers including J.J. Johnson, Bob Brookmeyer, Janos Starker, George Russell, William Russo, Bernard Heiden, and Gunther Schuller, among others.  A 1973 Pulitzer Prize nominee for composition for his piece "Levels," a concerto for solo bass, jazz band, woodwinds and strings, he also has been nominated for a Grammy Award (1979), honored three times by Down Beat magazine (as a trombonist, for lifetime achievement, and in 1994 as the third inductee to their Jazz Education Hall of Fame), and has received the National Association of Jazz Educators Hall of Fame Award (1981), President's Award for Distinguished Teaching (1986) from Indiana University, the Arts Midwest Jazz Masters Award (1990), and the Governor's Arts Award of the State of Indiana (1991), the Indiana Historical Society's Living Legend Award (2001), the James Smithson Medal from the Smithsonian Institution (2002), and the American Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts (2000), among others.

As a composer, Baker has been commissioned by more than 500 individuals and ensembles, including Josef Gingold, Ruggerio Ricci, Janos Starker, Harvey Phillips, the New York Philharmonic, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Beaux Arts Trio, Fisk Jubilee Singers, Louisville Symphony, Ohio Chamber Orchestra, the Audubon String Quartet, and the International Horn Society.  His compositions, tallying over 2,000 in number, range from jazz and sonatas to film scores.

Baker's involvement in music organizations has encompassed membership on the National Council on the Arts; board positions for the American Symphony Orchestra League, Arts Midwest, and the Afro-American Bicentennial Hall of Fame/Museum; and past chairs of the Jazz Advisory Panel to the Kennedy Center and the Jazz/Folk/Ethnic Panel of the NEA. He has been president (2002-04)  and vice president of the International Association of Jazz Educators, president of the National Jazz Service Organization, and senior consultant for music programs for the Smithsonian Institution.  Baker currently holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Music and Chairman of the Jazz Department at the Indiana University School of Music.  He has taught and performed throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, New Zealand and Japan.  He is also the conductor and musical and artistic director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.

He has more than 65 recordings, 70 instructional books, and 400 articles to his credit.

He has written some 70 books (mostly method books for musicians), and 400 articles; among his books are Jazz Improvisation: A Comprehensive Method of Study for All Players (1969) and Techniques of Improvisation (1971); with L. Belt and H. Hudson, he ed. The Black Composer Speaks (1978).

Some of his orchestral works include Reflections for Orch. and Jazz Ensemble (1969); Concerto for Violin and Jazz Band (1969); Concerto for Flute, Jazz Ensemble, and String Quartet (1971); Concerto for Double Bass, Jazz Ensemble, String Quartet, and Solo Violin (1972); Concerto for Trombone, Jazz Band, and Chamber Orch. (1972); Kosbro (1973; rev. 1975); Levels, concerto for Double Bass, Jazz Band, Flute Quartet, Horn Quartet, and String Quartet (1973); Le Chat qui peche for Orch., Jazz Quartet, and Soprano (1974); 2 Improvisations for Orch. and Jazz Combo (1974); Concerto for Tuba, Jazz Band, Percussion, Chorus, Dancers, Slide Projections, and Tape Recorders (1975); Concerto for Cello and Chamber Orch. (1975-76); Concerto for 2 Pianos, Jazz Band, Chamber Orch., and Percussion (1976); Clarinet Concerto (1985).

He has composed vocal works such as Black America: To the Memory of Martin Luther King, jazz cantata (1968); Catholic Mass for Peace for Chorus and Jazz Ensemble (1969). His chamber music includes String Quartet No. 1 (1962); Viola Sonata (1966); Violin Sonata (1967); Salute to Beethoven for Piccolo, Wind Quintet, Flute Choir, Jazz Ensemble, and Tape (1970); Cello Sonata (1973); Sonata for Violin and Cello (1974); Suite for Solo Violin (1975); Quintet for Jazz Violin and String Quartet (1987). Of course he has also written numerous works for jazz ensembles of various sizes.

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