By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
“ii-V-I” are jazz changes and chords but it’s also the name of the new jazz trio playing at the Foundry every Sunday from 5-9 p.m.
If you like jazz, I highly recommend them. They’ve been there about a month now and the staff and patrons have given good reviews.
Kent Baker, the leader of the group, says to expect high quality jazz from some of the top players in the area, playing familiar tunes.
He loves playing at the Foundry. “It’s got great ambiance. The staff is great and attentive. You’ve got the views, the sound is great and my wife loves the food. It’s a good place to go get a meal and listen to some good music,” he said.
Baker explained the name of the group, saying, “ii-V-I is kind of the gospel of jazz changes.”
The main trio is Baker on keys, Glendon Ingalls and Bear Irwin. If they ever need a night off, Baker has plenty of high quality substitutes. Baker said, “We’ve all played with each other for decades at this point.”
Ingalls is a multi-instrumentalist. He plays trumpet, bass and sousaphone.
Irwin is a long time music teacher of 45 years who plays the trombone. Besides this group, Irwin also plays with Satin & Steel and has been the manager and lead trombonist for the Vermont Jazz Ensemble since 1976.
After graduating from the Crane School of Music (SUNY Potsdam), Baker came to Vermont and starting playing in a band that played every Friday and Saturday night at the Cortina Inn. Baker said, “It was a great way to come into the area.” They played for two years, from 1987-89.
Baker’s been playing piano since he was 4 years old. He was a classical pianist all through college and conducted some large choirs. “I thought I was going to go off and have a nice classical life but I ended up in education with 17 years in the public school system and 10 years in college,” he said. “I’ve been around the world a couple of times with Cunard (cruiseship line) and still would be if it hadn’t been for Covid.”
He was in the theater playing two shows for 800-1,000 people every night. He played with top entertainers. He also played in the ballroom for 200 people dancing every night. Baker said, “It was great. If I were a drug addict, I’d tell you it was crack for musicians.”
But he got that job by accident. He was in Montreal with his students when the head hunter for the cruise ship was staying six blocks from his b&b. He ended up playing for him and they treated him wonderfully.
Baker said, “An hour and a half later, they called me up and asked if I’d like to go to Cape Town. I about keeled over, looked at my wife and son and they said I had to do it,” he said. “I told the folks at Castleton University, Gee I’m sorry and the next thing I know I’m flying over the North Pole.”
When Covid hit, he was in Fremantle, Australia. Their cruise ship became a cargo ship. They made a quick stop in South Africa that ended up being a week because one person was questionably positive for Covid. From there they sailed to Southhampton, England, nonstop. It was the first time they’d ever traveled that far (9-10 days straight).
Baker said there were “all sorts of places I hoped to visit on the way but could only wave to them on the way by… Not one person on that ship had Covid, cruise ships know how to take care of business. They’ve been dealing with norovirus with people in close quarters for years.”
At Heathrow, he was the only person in his section of the airport at 10 a.m. He said it was surreal. He flew from there to Logan and then drove with his wife to the hotel for first responders in Worcester, Massachusetts. He added, “The next thing I know, four days later we were flat on our backs with Covid for two weeks. We’re lucky to be alive.”
He attributes it to the hotel’s not being cleaned properly.
He had no work until this past January when he took over as the music director for Our Lady of the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church in Queensbury, New York. and the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Lake George. He played five masses a weekend. He didn’t go back to teaching but said, “Those people should be up for sainthood with all that they do. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with kids and young adults but with all that’s going on, it’s just too much.”
Of playing at the Foundry, Baker said he feels very grateful. “The three of us are having a great time. We’re old friends just enjoying what each other’s doing and encouraging each other. We’re having fun. I’d like to think people who are listening to us are enjoying it and seeing that we’re having fun. I wouldn’t know what else to do. Every day is a bonus. My middle child once told me I’ve never worked a day in my life and if you’re doing what you love, you haven’t worked a day in your life.
For more information visit Baker’s website: kentbakermusic.com.