Newman Taylor Baker
|Born||Petersburg, Virginia, United States|
|Genres||African American music, Jazz, Black string band, Free improvisation, Blue grass|
|Drummer, Teaching artist, Vocalist, Composer|
|Instruments||Washboard, Drum set, Percussion, Voice|
Newman Taylor Baker (born February 4, 1943) is a jazz drummer best known for Singin' Drums, his exploration of the washboard, and his work with musicians Henry Threadgill, Billy Bang, Henry Grimes, Leroy Jenkins, and Diedre Murray and choreographers Mickey Davidson and Joanne Tucker.
Newman Taylor Baker's paternal grandfather, Thomas Nelson Baker Sr.,  was the only former slave to receive a PhD from Yale University (1906). His father (chemistry) and siblings graduated from Oberlin College and Conservatory. Edith Baker (voice and piano), Ruth B. Baker (voice and piano), and Harry B. Baker (piano and organ), his aunts and uncle, were graduates of Oberlin Conservatory of Music. His maternal grandfather, Reverend Newman D. Taylor, known as the "Roland Hayes" of Mississippi, gave vocal recitals throughout the state and his uncle, Newman C. Taylor, accompanied him on piano. His aunt, India Taylor Johnson (a classmate of Dr. Billy Taylor at Virginia State University), was a vocal music and piano teacher in the Norfolk, VA public school system.
His parents were Ruth Taylor Baker, born Yazoo City, Mississippi, and Dr. T. Nelson Baker, Jr, born Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Newman's mother was an Associate Professor of English, and his father was Head of the Chemistry Department. He sang bass in the A Cappella Choir and played oboe in the Concert Band and the Symphony Orchestra. His parents played four-hand transcriptions of Brahms and Beethoven symphonies at home. They lived on the campus in faculty housing. Newman's brother, Dr. T. Nelson Baker, III, was Newman's source for recordings of Max Roach and Clifford Brown, Horace Silver, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Ella Fitzgerald, Art Blakey, and many others.
Newman Taylor Baker received his first drum the Christmas before he turned three; soon he was playing at home with jazz and classical recordings. Growing up on the campus of Virginia State University, he attended performances of leading international artists and orchestras, and was mentored by members of the music faculty: He began formal study of drums at five years as a member of the children's band for the campus elementary school and played in the university concert band from fourth-seventh grade. He was the youngest member of both bands.
As a child, and later as a college student, he studied with Virginia State University music faculty including Dr. F. Nathaniel Gatlin, Undine S. Moore, and Dr. Thomas C. Bridge. Baker is a graduate of Kent School in 1961 and earned a Bachelor of Science with a major in education from Virginia State University. He went on to study with Fred Begun, solo timpanist National Symphony Orchestra Washington, DC, and Harold Jones, School of Music East Carolina University at Greenville, North Carolina, where he completed a Master of Music in Education. Settling in New York City, he studied with Saul Goodman, solo timpanist New York Philharmonic Repertoire Institute, and Billy Hart.
Baker has been developing creative music for the washboard for the past five years. He currently performs as a duo with guitarist Marvin Sewell and has recently launched Washboard XT to explore new musical territory in the quartet and quintet setting. Baker has been performing with the Ebony Hillbillies since 2010 including appearances such festivals as the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina; Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco, California; and Port Townsend Blues Camp and Festival in Port Townsend, Washington. The group toured three cities in Bulgaria under the auspices of the U.S. Embassy and has collaborated with the Irish traditional band Téada on a series of U.S. concerts. Baker has also played washboard with percussionist Warren Smith; Steve Berrios, Gerry Eastman, Joe Ford and Carlton Holmes at the Williamsburgh Music Center, and at the 2013 Washboard Music Festival in Logan, Ohio.
His solo drumset project, Singin' Drums, premiered at the Williamsburgh Music Center in 1995 and grew with projects Virginia Peanuts Meets Buffalo Chips with saxophonist Joe Ford (The Internet Cafe 1996) and Sound of the Drum/Language of the Heart with dancer/choreographer Mickey Davidson (The Internet Cafe/JVC Jazz Festival 1997). In 1997, he collaborated with Horacee Arnold in Dialogue for 2001: A Duet for Drumset, as part of Many Festival, Performance on 42nd, Whitney Museum of American Art. See Discography below for two recordings of Singin' Drums on Innova label. In 1999, Singin' Drums was presented live- in-concert on Jazz Corner, the BETA Award-winning New York cable TV jazz show. As artistic director for A Celebration of the Drum Set: Give The Drummer Some, on the opening night of the Warwick Summer Arts Festival 2001 Warwick, NY, he performed Singin' Drums, and presented guest artists Steve Berrios and Susie Ibarra in solo and trio settings. In 2012, Baker collaborated with his niece, mezzo-soprano Andrea Baker, along with pianist Richard Lewis, on Singin' Drums: Voice and Drum which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.
He has performed internationally with Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Barron, Henry Grimes, John Hicks, Kevin Eubanks, Ahmad Jamal, Yvette Glover, Tom Harrell, James Moody, Lou Donaldson, Gloria Lynne, Frank Morgan, Cecil Bridgewater, Benny Powell, Stanley Cowell, John Blake, Jymie Merritt, Frode Gjerstad, Marilyn Crispell, Bobby Bradford, Leroy Jenkins, Myra Melford, Eileen Fulton, Billy Harper Quintet, Henry Threadgill Sextett, Billy Bang Quintet, Francesca Tanksley Trio, Reggie Workman's Topshelf, Sam Rivers Quartet, Charlie Rouse's Cinnamon Flower, Diedre Murray and Fred Hopkins, Gerry Eastman Quartet, Jeanne Lee Quartet, Craig Harris and Tailgator's Tales, Bern Nix, Bobby Zankel, Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya, Ebony Hillbillies, and the Monnette Sudler Quartet. He has participated in USIA tours to Turkey, Poland, Romania, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia.
Baker offers clinics and master classes in collaboration with saxophonist Sylwester Ostrowki to music conservatories throughout Poland. With Mickey D and Friends and the Avodah Dance Company, Baker brings dance/music residencies and workshops to schools, communities and correctional facilities throughout the U.S. He has also led master classes through such organizations as Jazzmobile, Young Audiences and Arts Horizons, and served as faculty at Rutgers University-Newark, Widener College, Livingstone College and Shaw University. Baker also teaches privately.
With Matthew Shipp
With Jemeel Moondoc
With Ted Daniel
With the Ebony Hillbillies
With Billy Bang
With David Schnitter
With Henry Grimes
With Judi Silvano
With Patrick Brennan
With Carl Grubbs
With Francesca Tanksley
With the Billy Harper Quintet
With Yuka Aikawa
With the Bobby Zankel Trio
With the Bern Nix Trio
With Jeanne Lee
With Gerry Eastman
With the Henry Threadgill Sextett
With Haze Greenfield
With Monnette Sudler
With Cullen Knight