Clint Baker: Preserving the Fire of Early Jazz

Clint Baker is one of the most important musicians in the contemporary Traditional Jazz and Swing world. Besides being a first-class musician (a multi-instrumentalist), he is also a bandleader, educator, jazz historian, and a mentor to younger musicians. Hal Smith: How did you become interested in music? Clint Baker: I did not come to jazz through family, exactly. I became very interested in music when I was quite young; younger than most people—around eight or nine. I started thanks to my dad who, although he’s not a musician, is very interested in music. He had a record collection. So when I was a little kid, that record collection was always present in the house. Early on, my father bought me a record player, and he bought me some swing music records. One of the first records I think I bought with my own money was a record called The Benny Goodman Story, and I also bought a Count Basie record. I had been listening to KMPX, a traditional jazz and swing radio station based in San Francisco. I just caught the last year of them on the radio and I think that formed my idea of what kind of music I wanted to hear and be interested in. I listened to that station constantly for the time that it was on the air, and I think it formed my taste more than anyth
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Hal Smith is an Arkansas-based drummer and writer. He leads the New Orleans Night Owls and the
Mortonia Seven and works with a variety of jazz and swing bands. Visit him online at

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