New Release: Basically Baker, Vol. 2: The Big Band Music of David Baker

by Scott Gotschall

Basically Baker, Vol. 2: The Big Band Music of David Baker, the latest CD from the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, was released September 23 on Patois Records. A sequel to the celebrated 2007 release Basically Baker, the new double-CD album received a four-star review in December issue of DownBeat Magazine and made the list of Best Albums of 2016 in the January 2017 issue. Doug Ramsey selected it for his “Monday Recommendation” on his Rifftides blog on November 7, and it broke into the top 50 of the JazzWeek radio charts for November 14, reaching number 33 on the December 5 chart. The album is available on Amazon and iTunes.

Basically Baker 2Basically Baker, Vol. 2 features ten of David Baker’s original compositions plus his arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Bebop” performed by a band that includes many IU Jazz faculty and alums. The band was joined by New York saxophonist Rich Perry and lead trumpeter Tony Kadleck. Guest soloists include IU alum Randy Brecker and faculty members Wayne Wallace and Dave Stryker. The project is funded in part through Indiegogo and proceeds from sales of the album will go to help support the David N. Baker Scholarship fund to benefit students of the Jacobs School of Music Jazz Studies Program.

The impetus for the first Basically Baker album was the fact that, although David Baker had composed hundreds of pieces for big band, very little of that repertoire had ever been recorded or even heard outside of the Bloomington campus. The desire to “get the music out there” led to recording Basically Baker, which was named by Downbeat one of the top 100 albums of the 2000s.

The current album has a somewhat different but no less monumental purpose – to honor David Baker himself. After Baker’s passing in March, Brent Wallarab and Mark Buselli wanted to honor the man and his music. Wallarab spent a month in the archives of the Jacobs School of Music library combing through recordings of Baker’s student big bands from the past five decades. The songs that were eventually chosen mostly came from between 1965 and 1975. These, says Wallarab, represent Baker at perhaps his most experimental. Three compositions – “Georgia Peach” (based on “Sweet Georgia Brown”), “Harlem Pipes” (a tribute to Baker’s friend and jazz pianist Marian McPartland), and “Kirsten’s First Song” (written in 1990 for his granddaughter) – represent disparate styles yet are all equally remarkable and brilliant songs featured on the album.

Wallarab noted during the preparation and recording of the first Basically Baker album the level of trust Baker placed in him and his band. With the new project, David’s wife, Lida, was involved in every aspect of the process. “As humbling and flattering was the trust David placed in us to produce the first recording, we still made sure to run every decision by him to get his blessing. Lida was an incredible source of advice and guidance for Volume 2 and we cannot underestimate the value of her intimate insight into David’s music.” Always the educator, David Baker helped inspire the confidence throughout the process of creating Basically Baker, allowing for creative, superior, and unique results. For Basically Baker Vol.2, Lida Baker put the same amount of faith in the musicians, all of whom were eager to honor the educator and composer so many of them had known, studied under, and worked with.

The Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra in the studio

The Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra in the studio

Perhaps the most remarkable part of Basically Baker 2 (aside from the music itself), is not only the opportunity to honor David Baker and his musical compositions, but also the musicians he educated and inspired in the five decades he taught at Indiana University. Wallarab recounts looking around the recording studio, and noticing something extraordinary, “It’s not unusual to look at a group of musicians and see vast age differences. In fact, one of the unique aspects of the music business is the tradition of multiple generations working together as peers. What was unique about this situation however, was that this wide age spread, from a trombonist in his early 20’s to veterans in their 70’s, were all students or colleagues of David Baker’s. It’s amazing to know not only how many generations were directly influenced by him, but how many more will continue to be touched by his gifts through the thousands of artist teachers he produced.” David Baker lives on not only through the music on Basically Baker 2, but also through the musicians that continue to educate and make music themselves.


Basically Baker, Vol. 2 Personnel:

Saxophones: Tom Walsh, Bill Sears, Rich Perry, Rob Dixon, Ned Boyd

Trombones: Tim Coffman, Freddie Mendoza, Brennan Johns, Rich Dole

Horn: Celeste Holler   Tuba: Dan Perantoni

Trumpets: Tony Kadleck, Scott Belck, Graham Breedlove, Jeff Conrad, Mark Buselli, Pat Harbison

Piano: Luke Gillespie   Bass: Jeremy Allen   Drums: Steve Houghton

Vibes: Mitch Shiner  Celeste: Monika Herzig

Guest Soloists: Randy Brecker, trumpet; Dave Stryker, guitar


Basically Baker, Vol. 2 Track List:

Disc 1

  1. The Harlem Pipes
  2. The Georgia Peach
  3. Walt’s Barbershop
  4. Soft Summer Rain
  5. Black Thursday
  6. Shima 13

Disc 2

  1. Bebop
  2. Honesty
  3. 25th and Martindale
  4. Kirsten’s First Song
  5. Terrible T
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