A One-man, Old-time Jazz Revival
A Natural Fit
Clint Baker was not troubled with questions like, "What do I want to do when I grow up?" I personally suspect he picked up a trumpet or a clarinet before he could walk. By the time he was in high school, he was well ensconced in his natural niche as a jazz musician. He had fallen hard for Dixieland-style jazz, which originated in New Orleans in the early 20th century, and spread throughout the United States.
As jazz music continues to expand and evolve, some of the original forms have become endangered. It's gratifying that inspiration and imagination continually give way to new musical experiments, or even slight twists that make an existing tune that much better. But, there is also unsurpassed value in the classics.
An Endangered Tradition
The trouble with Dixieland jazz is that it's a very specific, traditional style that also requires a huge amount of talent to get right. Not many modern-era musicians attempt to excel at it. Yet, it's infused with pure energy, and it's so catchy you have to tap your foot. I would venture to credit Clint Baker with a nearly single-handed preservation of Dixieland jazz in the Bay Area.
When one of Clint's bands played at the Del Mar Fairgrounds (San Diego County) in the late 1990s, the dance hall was fairly bursting with energy, as highly-skilled dance partners strutted their agile stuff. You would have thought it was a room full of 25-year-olds...but most of them were over 65. Something about this music must bring energy and youth.
Out of My League
"Back in the day," I went to Mountain View High School with Clint. Though I played in some of the same school band groups, and and even sat in a little bit on piano with his band at the time, I was completely in awe. I was hardly prepared for the improvisational party that would ensue at a rehearsal!
In his spare time, he would sit in his living room with Louis Armstrong records playing, and growl along until he could emulate Louis perfectly. I knew I was way out of my league with Clint's group, and possibly out of my era too. But, to help provide a beat for such a screamin' group of truly talented musicians was my privilege. It's no wonder Dixieland jazz is also referred to as "hot jazz" - it actually generates heat.
Clint Baker currently resides in the Bay Area and in Paris, France, and continues to manage and play in multiple jazz groups.
For more information about current Dixieland jazz activity, see http://www.dixielandjazzfestival.org/.