David Baker is an icon. He's earned his month-long birthday celebration, which began Dec. 21 at the Jazz Kitchen and has included a worldwide homage at the Jazz Educators Conference in Louisville. At the MAC, Baker’s IU colleague Tom Walsh presided over a panorama of Baker’s multi-faceted storied 60-year career as a jazz player, composer, educator and innovator of public programming.
Baker’s giving nature overrides his accomplishments; that endears him to everyone. Embracing adversity is part of his game plan. Living with and through music everyday is the status quo, along with gratitude for the opportunity to grow and share.
Students, now colleagues, shared their gratitude Saturday night through words and their talents, playing Baker’s compositions representing several styles — classical chamber music, bebop and big-band jazz ensemble playing — drawn from among his 2,000-plus works.
“Aspects of Andy” is an exceedingly complex musical biography; “Homage a L’Histoire du Soldat” turns Stravinsky into a contemporary sound and sensibility. David Baker’s 21st Century Bebop Band showcased diverse musical takes with “Harlem Pipes,” “R.S.V.P., Mr. Moody” and “The Aebersold Strut.” David Baker’s Indiana University Jazz Ensemble with IU alumni guest soloists closed the program with the resounding sounds of “Terrible T” and “Screamin’ Meemies.”
With no intention of retiring, David Baker will continue innovating ways of “being generous” in all walks of life. His dedication keeps us centered with the past; his passion moves jazz ever forward. Jazz endures because David Baker wills it and acts on it — everyday.
Baker was awarded the President's Medal of Excellence by Indiana University for his accomplishments; in his statement, IU president Michael McRobbie noted that Baker, who was one of the first African-American professors at IU, “is an innovative and virtuosic performer, a prolific composer, a dedicated jazz educator and an Indiana University treasure.”
McRobbie also announced that the university will match donations up to $100,000 to a David N. Baker Jazz Scholarship Fund, established by the Jacobs School of Music in recognition of Baker. Jan. 21 at the Musical Arts Center at Indiana University, Bloomington.