His name is associated most closely with jazz, but David N. Baker is one of those composers working in the fast-rushing "third stream" of music in which the improvisational techniques of jazz flow into and swirl around advanced compositional techniques of classical music. Baker has acknowledged Ives and Bartók as principal influences and among his 2,000 works are concertos and neo-Baroque trio sonatas, much of this music at least flirting withRead more serialism. He has written music on commission from the likes of Janos Starker, Josef Gingold, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Beaux Arts Trio, and the New York Philharmonic. At the same time, he has long been a prominent jazz educator and he has written hundreds of pieces for jazz ensemble. His most distinctive works fuse the classical values and techniques of Bach and Brahms with the vigor and improvisatory flair of bebop, as in the Ethnic Variations on a Theme of Paganini for violin. Baker played trombone in his high school band (a classmate was Slide Hampton). He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music education from Indiana University, but more relevant to his development was the time he spent playing trombone in small jazz groups led by Wes Montgomery and George Russell, and in the big bands of Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, and Quincy Jones. Unable to play the trombone professionally following a 1953 accident, Baker turned to the cello and pioneered the use of that instrument in jazz. He also studied composition in the 1950s with George Russell, John Lewis, Gunther Schuller, William Russo, and Bernhard Heiden. Baker worked as an arranger and taught in a series of small schools in the Midwest before settling in the department of jazz studies at Indiana University in 1966, where he became chair of the department and one of the most high-profile jazz educators in the country. At Indiana, he established the 21st Century Bebop Band, a student group dedicated to the preservation of bebop literature. Among Baker's most important compositions involving classical forces are Ellingtones: A Fantasy for saxophone and orchestra and a series of concertos for nearly every orchestral instrument with a combination of jazz band and symphony orchestra. Since the early '90s, Baker has served as music director of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, focusing on works from the historic jazz repertory. He has also written more than 70 books on jazz, including the standard textbook Jazz Improvisation. Read less
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