Lorraine Baker is one of the upcoming talents on the British jazz scene. A drummer with excellent touch and timing, she brought out her debut album called the Eden exactly one week ago, and I went along to Vortex jazz club in Dalston to see the album launch with her band.

photo by Helena Dornellas

The first thing to note is this is an excellent debut album. I interviewed Lorraine in early October and have been featuring tracks on our “Latest Releases” slot since then. Rather interestingly, the album focuses entirely on one of the great drummers called Ed Blackwell, who played with some of the greats of American jazz from Ornette Coleman to Don Cherry to Joe Lovano over a forty year period. Ed Blackwell came from a generation of drummers who turned a primarily percussion instrument into musical and melodic instrument as well, along with the likes of Billy Higgins and Joe Chambers.  Therefore, it is fascinating that a young drummer coming out of Kent would base her album on the achievements of a drummer who passed on twenty six years ago.

photo by Helena DornellasAnd just for good measure, Lorraine arranges the compositions and puts a 21st century slant to them. A refreshing approach to looking at the one of the stalwarts of the music who would otherwise not be in the consciousness of the general jazz fan.  Lorraine has assembled some excellent musicians for the tour including John Turville on piano, Paul Michael on electric bass and Binker Golding on saxophones; Liam Noble played piano on the album. Highlights from the first set included Blues Connotation, a track written by Ornette Coleman which featured a lovely solo by Lorraine where she used her hands as part of the percussion ensemble.

As I was listening and watching her perform, my mind was drawn to the drummer Bob Moses who played on Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life album in 1976. Bob also played on guitarist Emily Remler’s albums in the early 1980s and took a different approach where he was the outright percussionist, as opposed to the traditional riding of the cymbals and hi hat method, Lorraine was performing at that level of performance, coming up with something innovative.  It was also interesting to watch a drummer play left handed or sinistra as they say in Latin.

On the second set, Lorraine played some great compositions including a cover of Central Park West, a track written by John Coltrane which Joe Lovano featured on his 1992 album From The Soul, one of the last records Ed Blackwell recorded on. Pentahouve is one of the highlights of the CD, and it was great to listen to it in a live setting, a tune with a deep groove and wonderful time signature, allowing the musicians to really get into it and branch out with Lorraine revelling in the odd time signatures the track provides.

I think all in attendance left the concert feeling that jazz is in good hands with Lorraine Baker letting us know that it is possible to combine musicality with innovation. Lorraine shows as a leader and drummer that the most important thing is the quality of the music, that alone will be an inspiration to girls who want to pick up the drum kit as an instrument to have a go and see what happens.

Laurie Burnette

JLR Review: Lorraine Baker at Vortex Jazz Club, November 29th 2018