Ginger Baker’s Air Force was an English jam-rock big band, formed by drummer Ginger Baker after serving in the Graham Bond Organization and the supergroups Cream and Blind Faith. Air Force released two albums in 1970 on Atco and Polydor.
The first, Ginger Baker’s Air Force, is a live double-album with Steve Winwood and Ric Grech (both ex-Blind Faith), Chris Wood (of Winwood’s Traffic), and Denny Laine (pre-Wings). It includes renditions of the Blind Faith jam “Do What You Like” and the Cream staple “Toad.” Air Force 2 features Bond, Laine, and members of Alan White‘s band Griffin (aka Simpson’s Pure Oxygen).
Members: Ginger Baker (drums), Steve Winwood (organ, vocals), Ric Grech (violin, bass), Jeanette Jacobs (vocals), Denny Laine (guitar, vocals), Anthony Reebop Kwaku Baah (drums), Chris Wood (tenor saxophone, flute), Graham Bond (alto saxophone), Harold McNair (tenor saxophone, flute), Phil Seamen (percussion), Aliki Ashman (vocals), Steve Gregory (tenor saxophone, flute), Bud Beadle (saxophone), Kenny Craddock (piano, organ, guitar), Diane Stewart (vocals), Colin Gibson (bass), Neemoi Acquaye (drums, percussion), Catherine James (vocals), Rocky Dzidzornu (percussion)
Ginger Baker formed Air Force after the breakup of Blind Faith, a supergroup co-founded the prior year by guitarist Eric Clapton (Yardbirds, Bluesbreakers, Cream) and keyboardist/singer Steve Winwood (Spencer Davis Group, Traffic).
Baker (b. Peter Edward Baker, 1939 – d. 2019) first performed during the early 1960s in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. He earned the nickname “Ginger” due to his red-orange hair. In 1965, he cut two albums behind the drumkit in the Graham Bond Organization, led by organist Bond with bassist Jack Bruce and reedist Dick Heckstall-Smith. During this period, musos and audiences took note of Baker’s virtuosity.
Baker and Bruce, constantly at odds, were brought together the following year in Cream, a power-trio with Clapton. Between 1966 and 1968, they released the albums Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears, and Wheels of Fire and scored hits with “I Feel Free,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “Strange Brew,” and “White Room.”
After Cream disbanded over internal tensions, Clapton teamed with Winwood, who left Traffic around the same time. Clapton wanted to use Traffic’s drummer, Jim Capaldi, in the new project but Winwood insisted Baker was the better drummer. They drafted bassist Ric Grech (Family) and made the 1969 album Blind Faith on Atco.
On their summer tour behind the album, Clapton found himself more drawn to the music and personalities of Blind Faith’s opening act, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. With members of the duo’s backing group, he formed Derek & the Dominoes and made the 1970 double-album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Elsewhere, Winwood worked on a solo album that turned into John Barleycorn Must Die, credited to a reformed Traffic.
The newly free Baker assembled a loose congregate with participation by Winwood and Grech. Baker chose the name Air Force: possibly a reference to his time in Squadron 56 of the Air Training Corps. The mandate: an expansion of Blind Faith’s loose mix of blues, soul, rock, and jazz with elements of brassy big-band rock (Colosseum, Heaven, Keef Hartley Band) and rhythmic Afro-rock (Assagai, Demon Fuzz, Osibisa).
- Ginger Baker’s Air Force (1970)
- Air Force 2 (1970)
- Live in Offenbach, Germany 1970 (archival, 2010)
- Do What You Like (archival, 2015 • Ginger Baker’s Air Force & Elvin Jones)
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