A Celebration of David Baker’s Life in Music

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David N. Baker, Jr. (1931-2016)

David N. Baker, Jr.
(1931-2016)

We mourn the passing of David Nathaniel Baker, Jr who died at his home in Bloomington, Indiana on Saturday, March 26, 2016 at the age of 84. David was an extraordinarily accomplished composer, author, conductor, and teacher; and among the most influential voices in contemporary American music over the past five decades. The Keiser-Southern Music family offers our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. We submit this humble memorial as a tribute to and celebration of his life and music.

Born on December 21, 1931 in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Baker grew up in the rich musical tradition of the black community, in the world of church and gospel music, blues and rhythm & blues, and jazz. He trained as a classical musician and composer at Indiana University, where he later became Distinguished Professor of Music and Chairman of the Jazz Department. Baker also had served as conductor and artistic director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. A virtuoso performer on multiple instruments and top in his field in several disciplines, Mr. Baker taught and performed throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Though thoroughly educated in classical music, Baker’s early career began in an era when the professional options for a black man in that field were extremely limited. As for composing, he once said, “there was no reason for me to aspire to write classical music. At that time the handful of black composers who were actually writing classical music were constantly struggling to have their works performed. There were virtually no role models for me to follow, and very limited opportunities to hear the music these composers were creating.” However in 1969, Baker was approached by his friend and colleague, the legendary violinist and pedagogue Josef Gingold, with a request to write a concerto for violin and jazz band. Baker accepted, and following the masterful premiere with the IU Jazz Ensemble, myriad commissions from colleagues and other world-class artists and ensembles would follow thereafter.

David Baker’s style is often described as “thirdstream,” a term commonly used since the late 1950s to describe the synthesis of elements of classical music not only with jazz but also with other folk and popular traditions. At his 2006 acceptance address of Indiana University’s Tracy M. Sonneborn Award, Baker stated, ” It was the philosophical rubric of thirdstream–not only in the narrower view of combining classical music and jazz, but also in the broader interpretation which combined classical music with various ethnic or vernacular musics–that provided me with the means to seek out my own identity as a composer.”

Over the course of his multifaceted career, David received numerous awards, including the National Association of Jazz Educators Hall of Fame Award, the Indiana Historical Society’s Living Legend Award, the James Smithson Medal from the Smithsonian Institution, the American Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Emmy Award for his musical score documentary For Gold and Glory. In 2007 he was honored by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with their Living Jazz Legend Award. As a composer Mr. Baker was commissioned by more than 500 individuals and ensembles, including many world-class performers. He served a number of times on the Pulitzer Prize Music Jury and was Chair of the Jazz Faculty of the Steans Institute for Young Artists at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL. His compositions total more than 2,000 in number, including jazz and symphonic works, chamber music, and ballet and film scores.

CATALOG OF WORKS – VIDEO EXCERPTS

Alto Saxophone Concerto: “Lee Konitz” (1989) 21′
Asax Solo: 3.3.3.3: 4.3.3.1: Timp.Perc(2): Str

David Baker’s concerto for alto saxophone and large orchestra is named after legendary jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz, who commissioned the work. Recorded by Czech National Symphony, Paul Freeman, conductor; Thomas Walsh, alto saxophone (Albany Records).

Listen/ watch:
Movement I
Movement II
Movement III

 

Clarinet Sonata (1990) 14′
This transcription of Baker’s Flute Sonata (1989) was performed at UBC Distinguished Artist Series, Canada. Recorded by Jaren Hinckley, clarinet and Vince Humphries, piano.

Listen/ watch:
Blues
Lonliness
Dance

 

Life Cycles for Tenor, Horn and Strings (1988) 20′
Recorded by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Paul Freeman, conductor; William Brown, tenor; Zdenek Tylsar, horn. Can be performed as a standalone cycle of 5 songs, or as a companion piece to Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings. Composed for William Brown; texts by Terence Diggory. A reduction for tenor, horn and piano is also available.

Listen/ watch:
Night Song
Surface
Autumn Moral
What It Means When Spring Comes
Saints and Hermits

 

Roots II (1992) 25′
Violin, Cello, Piano
Each of the five movements is a stylized portrait of a musical form from the African-American tradition. Roots II was commissioned and recorded by the Beaux Arts Trio, Philips CD 438-866-2.

Listen/ watch:
Incantation
Dance in Congo Square
Sorrow Song
Boogie Woogie
Jubilee

 

Singers of Songs, Weavers of Dreams for Cello and Percussion (1981) 25′
Commissioned by Janos Starker; recorded and edited by Janos Starker, cello and George Gaber, percussion (Laurel Record LR 117). Each movement of this suite pays tribute to a different jazz icon, including Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Yancey, Paul Robeson, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, and Dizzy Gillespie.

Listen/ watch

 

Through this Vale of Tears: In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.(1986) 22′
Tenor or Soprano Solo: 2 Violin, Viola, Cello, Piano

Commissioned and recorded twice by tenor William Brown, Through This Vale of Tears is a kind of social commentary on the death of Dr. King. As described by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Mr. Baker’s piece set a variety of texts in a cornucopia of styles, including scat, spiritual, and chorale. Miraculously, this diversity cohered, producing a multi-dimensional work filled with grief, humor and hope.”

Listen/ watch:
Thou Dost Lay Me in The Dust of Death
If There Be Sorrow
My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?
Parades to Hell
Deliver My Soul
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child

Explore David Baker’s catalog of Keiser Classical publications on Hal Leonard’s website.

For additional information on David Baker or his works, write to Keiser Classical.

Press links:
ABC/ Associated Press
New York Times.
Indianapolis Star

Gwyneth Walker “When the Spirit Sings” New Chamber Music Album

Composer Gwyneth WalkerA new album of Gwyneth Walker’s chamber music, When the Spirit Sings, is being released by Centaur Records in 2016.  Recorded by Musica Harmonia, it features many of Walker’s best-known string chamber works, including A Vision of Hills for piano trio, Letters to the World for piano quartet, and the title work When the Spirit Sings for piano trio.  A newly-composed piece for string trio and clarinet entitled The Peacemakers completes the album.

Gwyneth Walker is currently on several new compositions in 2016, including a symphonic work for the Holyoke Civic Orchestra in Massachusetts, to be premiered in October of 2016, and various string chamber and orchestral works.

Reza Vali Premieres, New CD Release, and Spring 2016 Update

Reza Vali Segah bow

Composer Reza Vali takes a bow at the premiere of his work Segah

Reza Vali has been busy with two world premieres as part of the 2016 Segâh Festival of Persian and Turkish Music in Pittsburgh.  The first, Segâh, Double Concerto for Persian Ney, Kamanche, and Orchestra, was premiered on January 15 at the Carnegie Hall by Khosrow Soltani on the Ney, Kian Soltani playing Kamanche, and the Segiah Festival Ensemble conducted by Daniel Curtis.  The second, Sornâ (Folk Songs, Set No. 17), received its world premiere performance on January 16 at the Alumni Concert Hall.  It was premiered by Ismail Lumanovski on solo clarinet and the Hoppa Project ensemble under the baton of Erberk Eryilmaz.  For more information on either of these works, please contact Keiser Classical.

Ashoob (Calligraphy No. 14) for Santoor (Persian hammer dulcimer) and string quartet will receive its world premiere on March 18 – 20, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.  It will be performed by Dariush Saghafi on Persian Santoor and the Carpe Diem String Quartet.  For more information on this work, please contact Keiser Classical.

A new CD of Reza Vali’s chamber works, called The Book of Calligraphy, was released by Albany Records on December 1, 2015.

Donald Crockett’s Dance Sonata and Oberlin Performance

2016 CrockettUSCKeiser Classical will publish Donald Crockett’s Dance Sonata for clarinet/ bass clarinet and piano this spring. The work was originally conceived as his “Dance Concerto” which was scored for mixed accompaniment of eight instruments for the 21st Century Consort, premiered in April 2013. Following that, a wind ensemble accompaniment was commissioned and premiered by a consortium of CBDNA member band directors. The sonata is a fully independent piece, but it can also be used by a soloist preparing a performance with any version of the work as all share the same musical material. For more information, write to Keiser Classical.

Crockett’s work Tracking Inland for flute, clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), harp and string quartet will be performed at Oberlin Conservatory on May 5 by the Oberlin Contemporary Ensemble conducted by Tim Weiss.

Adolphe “Einstein’s Light” and Spring Update

FollowinEinstein's Light front coverg the release of Imaginary Films’ documentary motion picture by Nicholas Barris Einstein’s Light in November 2015, the world premiere of Bruce Adolphe’s score took place on 11/25/2015 in Amsterdam.  Keiser Classical is releasing this month the exclusive violin and piano edition, with bowings and fingerings by Joshua Bell. For more information on the new issue, please write to us.

Einstein was a violinist all his life. In the motion picture “Einstein’s Light”, filmmaker Nickolas Barris and composer Bruce Adolphe set out to communicate Einstein’s dedication to the violin and his particular love for the music of Mozart and Bach.

This collection of music composed for the soundtrack is based on phrases from those two great masters that spin off into physics-inspired dreams and thoughts. It contains a poignant solo violin piece based on music by Bach and four pieces for violin and piano that are based on phrases from Mozart’s music. The composer includes one work in particular, the Mozart Violin Sonata K. 378, notable because the only extant recording of Einstein playing the violin contains the slow movement from this sonata. The soundtrack to “Einstein’s Light” was recorded by Joshua Bell and Marija Stroke on Sony Classical Records.

Additional recent and future performances of include: Off The Hook Arts in Colorado on 2/13/2016, 2/14/2016, and 2/16/2016, where violinist Clara Lyon played the first two dates, Emily Ondracek-Peterson (seen here playing “Einstein’s Light” courtesy of Colorado Public Radio) performed the third, and composer Bruce Adolphe accompanied on piano for all three.  The New York premiere is presented by The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and will take place in Alice Tully Hall on 2/28/2016 in a program dedicated to introducing Einstein’s love of Mozart’s music to children and families.  And a performance will take place at the Museum of Mathematics in New York on 9/14/2016, featuring Mark Steinberg on violin and Marija Stroke on piano.  Available from Keiser Classical in mid-March; email us for details.

Bruce Adolphe is currently composing an opera in collaboration with the novelist Richard Powers, author of Orfeo and The Time of Our Singing, among many other novels. Scenes from the opera, called “The Origin”, will be previewed at the Off the Hook Arts Festival in Colorado in June, 2016, featuring soprano Christie Conover and tenor Joseph Gaines.

Bruce Adolphe has recently composed a work commissioned by violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv. The piece, called “Fantasia Krushelnytska”, is inspired by the life of Solomiya Krushelnytska, the great Ukrainian soprano whose career was cut short by the Soviet occupation.

Adolphe’s Suite for Pete, a solo guitar work in four movements dedicated to the memory of Pete Seeger and inspired by his work in civil rights, will be premiered by Eliot Fisk at the Off the Hook Arts Festival in Colorado in June 2016.

Bruce recently teamed up with Kal, the political cartoonist of The Economist and Baltimore Sun, for a series of improvisational interactions between Tunes and Cartoons, featuring Kal’s drawings and Bruce’s piano puzzlers, as well as spontaneous simultaneous improvisations based on audience suggestions. This took place in Boulder and Fort Collins, Colorado, in January, 2016.  Piano Puzzlers is available through Keiser Classical.

The Tulsa Symphony Orchestra performed both Tough Turkey in the Big City and Red Dogs and Pink Skies in the middle of last November, 2015.  Contact our rental department to inquire after performance materials.

Claude Baker Premieres and AGO Award

Claude BakerClaude Baker’s “Hor che’l ciel e la tera” for 24 voice chorus and four percusionists was premiered in January of 2015.  A “re-imagining” of the second work in Claudio Monteverdi’s eighth book of madrigals, masterpiece Madrigali guerrieri ed amorosi (Madrigals of War and Love), the piece was commissioned and premiered by the NOTUS, and elite contemporary vocal ensemble at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.  A recording will be released on the IUMusic label.  Performance materials will be available this spring from Lauren Keiser Music Publishing.

Recently, Claude Baker was selected as the winner of the inaugural Ronald G. Pogorzelski and Lester D. Yankee Composition Competition sponsored by the American Guild of Organists.  The new work written as a result of the prize will be given its world premiere on the recently installed Pogorzelski-Yankee Memorial Organ at Indiana University of Pennsylvania on March 13, 2016.  The performer on that occasion will be Kola Owolabi, Professor of Organ at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Contact us for more information on this piece.

In other recent news, the European premiere of Baker’s piano concerto, From Noon to Starry Night was given at the Staatskapelle Halle in Germany on January 24 and 25 with Claire Huangci as the soloist and Mario Venzago conducting.

Michael Cohen’s “I Remember” Performed at Violins of Hope

Scene from “I Am Anne Frank.” Cohen’s work “I Remember” is from the score he composed for this musical theater piece.

Michael Cohen’s composition “I Remember” for mezzo-soprano, flute, cello and harp, based on the “Diary of Anne Frank”, was performed as part of the Violins of Hope program last October in Cleveland.  The whole program can be viewed here, courtesy of WVIZ/PBS Ideastream Education.  (“I Remember” starts at around 10:00.)  More recently it was included in performances on 2/6 and 2/7 as part of the “Of Love & Remembrance” Valentine Concert in Boston.  An arrangement for voice and piano is also available from Lauren Keiser Music Publishing. Order either version from your favorite music retailer or through Hal Leonard.