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Esteemed recording engineerby Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2004 Todd S. Jenkins
Recording engineer David Baker, who cut more than two thousand sessions over a career spanning four decades, died in Rochester, New York, on July 14, 2004. He was fifty-eight years old.
Baker came from an interesting music-industry bloodline; his grandfather had been an early salesman for Columbia Records, his father a hi-fi salesman. As a young man Baker ran sound for the Atlanta Arts Festival and made field recordings of civil rights protests (found on Movement Soul, distributed by the Library of Congress). He studied sound engineering at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music and New York's Institute of Audio Research. Baker got a job with Apostolic Studios, where he worked with such disparate musicians as The Fugs, Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell. His long association with the Vanguard label began around in 1967 and continued through the late 1980s, when he remastered the label's entire catalog for CD reissue.
Baker's jazz work graced dozens of record labels over the years, including Blue Note, Atlantic, Polygram, ECM, Verve, Black Saint/Soul Note, Enja, Sony and Maxjazz. Among the artists whose albums he engineered were Art Farmer, Paul Bley, George Russell, Sun Ra, David Liebman, Richie Beirach, Maria Schneider, John Zorn, Medeski, Martin & Wood, and Al DiMeola. In 1995-65 he went to Bali and made field recordings of local gamelans, issued in 2002 on Pitamaha: Music of Bali (Amulet). In 1998 Baker won a Grammy for his work on Shirley Horn's Verve release, I Remember Miles.
In the past year Baker had taken on special projects for Jazz at Lincoln Center, making archival recordings of Dave Brubeck, Toots Thielemans and other artists during the 2003/2004 season. His life was distinguished by a commitment to excellence and a desire to pass his knowledge on to future generations. He is survived by his wife, Kyoko Baker.
Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.