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Thursday, 9 December, 1999, 18:42 GMT
Jazz great Baker dies

Kenny Baker: Well-known for his TV work

Jazz trumpeter Kenny Baker has died at the age of 78.

He was best known for his work with the Baker's Dozen band, and for his performances for film and television.

He is to jazz what the Rolling Stones are to rock music
Agent Jim Simpson
He died on Tuesday in a hospital close to his home at Felpham, West Sussex. He had been suffering for a viral infection for more than three weeks. He is survived by his third wife Sue and daughter Julie.

His career saw him play with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior and Tony Bennett.

He also performed on James Bond soundtracks and with The Beatles.

Baker, was also heard on hundreds of TV programmes such as The Muppet Show, though his involvement with the Jack Parnell Orchestra, which played for the now-defunct ATV company.

In the 1980s he provided the music for the Beiderbecke trilogy, starring James Bolam.

'World class performer'

Friends and colleagues from the world of jazz have paid tribute to the trumpeter who was this year awarded the MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours .

Appearing on the BBC's Big Band Special in 1962
Leading British jazzman John Dankworth said: "Everybody regarded him on a different level to any other trumpeter in the British Isles. He was a world class performer."

While Jim Simpson, head of Big Bear Music Agency, which handled Baker's career, said: "It's not just the passing of good man and a wonderful musician, it's the end of an era musically.

"He is to jazz what the Rolling Stones are to rock music. He was the most successful British jazz musician."

Although Baker was also presented with the best trumpet player title for the third time at the BT British jazz awards this year, he toyed with several other instruments as a young man.

Baker joined a brass band and by the age of 17 had become a professional musician.

After leaving his home town of Withernsea, in Yorkshire's East Riding, for London, he met and began performing with the already well-known jazz musician George Chisholm.

Wartime work

While serving in the RAF during World War II, Baker was called up to do forces programmes.

As his reputation as a talented soloist grew so did his work in the movies. One of his most famous contributions to cinema was to playing the music that actress Kay Kendal mimed to in the classic comedy Genevieve.

He went on to share top billings with the big variety acts of the day, such as Tommy Trinder, Benny Hill, Ken Dodd and Morecambe and Wise.

But it was in the 1950s that he first began fronting Baker's Dozen and working on the first regular jazz show on British radio, the BBC Light Programme series Let's Settle For Music.

The band reformed in 1993 for four sell-out nights at Ronnie Scott's in Birmingham.

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