Kofi Baker is an L.A./Orange County based drummer who also teaches from his Orange, California drum school. Now 37, he’s played professionally since age 14 and has played or recorded with the likes of Jack Bruce (Cream), Jonas Hellborg and Chris Poland (Megadeth). Oh yeah, he’s also toured playing duets with his dad, the legendary Ginger Baker of Cream/Blind Faith fame.
As with anyone who follows in a famous parent’s footsteps, people are inclined to make comparisons. So how does he compare? He’s as good and probably better. Though initially trained by his father, Kofi takes the art of drumming to another level and surpasses dear-old-dad in technique. That’s hard to imagine without the use of audio-visual aids, but Kofi is a perfectionist at his craft and yet approaches drumming with the need to enjoy his work, almost to a fault. He could be playing with any rock band or playing huge tour venues, but instead plays what he’s passionate about: jazz fusion. Unfortunately, is a genre that doesn’t exactly see cd’s fly off the retail shelves, or
would be selling the Kofi Baker stick bag instead of the Travis Barker stick bag. Jazz fusion however, might be the only type of music that appreciates the speed and complexity of his style. When he does play classic rock drums its almost super-human and it’ll leave your head spinning. (He should have a yellow road sign posted for bass players: “Warning, poly rhythms ahead-Follow the hi-hats”) So, while most other drummers are set up downstage and provide the backbeat to what everyone else is doing, Baker is often center stage because his style commands audiences to pay attention when he’s playing. Like his dad, Kofi uses the double bass drum set up and uses it effectively without going over the top, grabbing you attention with Jo Bonham style flutters. Another similarity to dad: solos, looooong solos. On a recent tour in
, he was regularly timed doing 12-15 minutes solos. That’s about where the similarities end, as the younger Baker has developed his own distinct sound. So what’s the main difference between the two Bakers? Kofi says “I still work at it.” and he does, often practicing several hours a day to make “perfect” even better.
Until recently Baker had been playing regularly with Ohm (Chris Poland of Megadeath on guitar and Rob Pagliari on bass) but lately has been playing more with his other projects, the jazz fusion based Kofi Baker Band, Kofi and Cream, which features justly covered Cream selections as well as his own original material, and the Kofi Baker Bluesion Band. He also occasionally does some session work.
Recently, I was also lucky enough to be an audience of one at a jam session in his 8 X 15 drum studio with master guitar coach to the stars, Fran Banish, easily L.A. best blues/rock guitarist ( www.franbanish.com the list of names posted on his website of who he’s taught/coached is amazing including Bob Dylan, yes, that Bob Dylan, Keb’ Mo, Jackson Browne and more) and Dale Jennings on bass. I made my exit after a phenomenal version of “Dazed and Confused” because, ironically, that’s how I felt after trying to follow the trio’s solidly improvised playing through the 15 minute song (and because I was starting to loose my hearing in the tiny space). With any luck this grouping will play live, someday somewhere or better yet, see its way into a studio and record.
Until then you can hear Kofi on Ohm’s Amino Acid Flashback or on Tapestry on which he plays with Brett Garsed and bassist Ric Fierabracci under the band name Mojo. You can also find Kofi playing in one of his projects around L..A. or teaching at his studio.
For more information or shows check out www.kofibaker.com