IU jazz legend David Baker honored in tribute album

Guest post courtesy of IU Communications colleague Brittany Aders:

Indiana University musicians and fans of David Baker have come together to create a CD, titled “Singer of Songs,” in honor of the legendary IU professor’s musical styling and works.

With backgrounds in music studies, cellist Manuel Fischer-Dieskau, pianist Connie Shih and jazz pianist Monika Herzig– under the tutelage of IU legends such as David Baker, the late Janos Starker, George Gaber and Gyorgy Sebok– formed a triple threat in developing this special project. For percussion, Fischer-Dieskau chose to include friend and leading European percussionist Guy Frisch from Luxembourg.

“I think it’s important that we celebrate because it’s how we keep this music alive,” Baker said. “It is such a joy to see people who love jazz coming together so that the music doesn’t become passive.”

David Baker, Janos Starker on cello, and George Gaber on percussion during the original rehearsals of Singers of Sons, Weavers of Dreams.

David Baker, Janos Starker on cello, and George Gaber on percussion during the original rehearsals of “Singers of Songs, Weavers of Dreams.”

Baker created and led the Jazz Studies Department within IU’s Jacobs School of Music since 1966, and has also played and composed more than 2,000 musical works. His beautiful and complicated musical styling combines classical and jazz components and is widely categorized as Third Stream, which is a combination of Western art music and various ethnic music.

The venture started with the special interest of Manuel Fischer-Dieskau, cellist and professor of cello at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz in Germany, who studied at IU Bloomington under legendary cellist professor Janos Starker.

During his studies at IU, Manuel grew to love the cello works of David Baker, especially his suite “Singer of Songs.”

“When we were thinking about the program of my new CD, I proposed my Baker-idea to the director of my label, MDG, well known for their courage to present also unknown music on their productions.” Fischer-Dieskau said. “My idea and hope was also to introduce the name and work of David Baker to the European public.”

This dream began to unfold with the participation of Monika Herzig, jazz pianist and senior lecturer for the Arts Administration program at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

“When I asked her to take part in my new CD production she accepted right away — a wonderful chance and great luck for me since nobody knows the music of David Baker better than she does,” Fischer-Dieskau said.

Herzig, a former student of Baker, said Baker is a very inspirational leader in music in her book entitled “David Baker– A Legacy in Music” (IU Press, 2011).

Monika Herzig and David Baker

Monika Herzig and David Baker

“At the beginning of his musical career, Baker was bridging a large gap between the jazz and classical world as well as between black and white and had a tremendous impact on bringing everyone to the same table,” said Herzig. “Manuel Fischer-Dieskau was a student of Starker’s, who is largely considered as one of the world’s leading master teachers. Thus the music has gone full circle from being created at IU, performed world-wide, to now being recorded in Europe with IU personnel and with a tribute back to IU.”

While the album is now available, the official release concerts will be in October in Germany. This fall, IU hopes to host cellist Manuel Fischer-Dieskau for a release concert to honor David Baker and the late Janos Starker.

“I dedicated this CD to my teachers, especially to Maestro Starker, who taught me everything I needed to know in order to find my way on the quite complicated map of the cello-fingerboard.” Fischer-Dieskau said. “Without him I also would have never discovered the wonderful genius of David Baker. I am very proud to be the first cellist that presents Mr. Baker’s works to the European public!”

In celebration of national Jazz Appreciation Month, IU Jacobs School of Music will honor legendary Indiana jazz legends on Saturday at their annual “Jazz Celebration” concert. On Wednesday, April 30 for International Jazz Day, Topo’s 403 in Bloomington will host a jazz night sponsored by Jazz from Bloomington, and will have performances by two living Indianapolis jazz masters Clifford Ratcliff and Hank Hankerson with Monika Herzig on piano.

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