Jim Baker has been playing in and around Chicago as a pianist, keyboardist, and synthesist for more than two decades, mostly in improvisational contexts. He initially studied piano with Thomas Scott, of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and studied composition with Morgan Powell and Herbert Brun at the University of Illinois at Urbana.

During the 1980's, Baker played frequently in groups led by saxophonist Harold Jones (a.k.a. Hal Raru), and also played in the Nicholas Tremulis band. After leaving the Tremulis group, Baker was an active participant in the then-nascent free improvisation scene, performing with groups including trombonist Bill Barnes; guitarist / xylophonist Rick Barnes; guitarist / banjoist Andre Caporaso; percussionist Steve Hunt, bassist Kent Kessler, shortwave radiotarist / hydrokalimbist Don Meckley; bassist / guitarist / trumpeter Brian Sandstrom; violinist / guitarist / cornetist Daniel Scanlan; mezzo-coloratura Gwendolyn Manter-Seminara; and percussionist / tubaphonist Michael Zerang.

During the 1990s, Baker continued performing with many of the above, plus reedists Victoria Alexander, Fred Anderson, Anje Carnys-Soltis; Paul Fenner, Guillermo Gregorio, Cameron Pfiffner, Arthur Taylor, Richard Theodore, Ken Vandermark, Edward Wilkerson, and Mars Williams; trumpeters John Adkins, Curtis Black, Billy Brimfield, and Tony Mujica; guitarists Kevin Drumm, Jim O'Rourke, Tony Suto, Ben Vida, and Matt Wilson; bassists Josh Abrams, Harrison Bankhead, Michael Cristol, Dan Simon, Mitch Straeffer, Kevin Tkacz, Matt Thompson; bassist / cellist Louis Varro; oboeist Robbie Hunsinger; percussionist / trumpeter / reedist Hal Russell; cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm; trombonist / guitarist Jeb Bishop; cellist / keyboardist / vocalist Bob Marsh; violinist Terri Kapsalis; vocalist Gina McLaughlin; multi-instrumentalists Hal Rammel and Weasel Walter; and percussionists Joe Adamik, Ajaramu, Hamid Drake, Tim Keenan, Tim Mulvenna, Afifi Phillard, Damon Short, Grant Strombeck, Chad Taylor, Bob Vernae, Matt Weston, and Zaid.

In 1995, the improvising trio Caffeine (Vandermark, Hunt, and Baker) released their debut CD on Okkadisk, and a California tour took the group to performances in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Berkeley. During 1996, Baker played at two European jazz festivals, both in sextets featuring reedists Ken Vandermark & Mars Williams (Vandermark's Chicago Improvisers group at Moers {Germany} [reedists Vandermark & Williams, with guitarist Jim O'Rourke, bassist Kent Kessler, percussionist Hamid Drake, & Baker]; and Witches & Devils at the Tampere Jazz Happening {Finland} [Vandermark & Williams, with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, bassist Harrison Bankhead, percussionist Steve Hunt, & Baker]). Also during 1996, a trio led by Baker, featuring Kent Kessler and Hamid Drake, with special guest tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson, performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival. Baker also performed in a trio with clarinetist / accordianist Rudiger Carl and guitarist Stefan Wittwer, during the 1996 FMP Festival in Chicago.

1997 included performances with: percussionist Zerang and reedist Steve Nelson-Raney at Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee; Steam (Vandermark, Kessler, and drummer Tim Mulvenna) at a jazz festival in London, Ontario, Canada; Broken Wire (Scanlan, Lonberg-Holm, Zerang, and Baker) at various clubs in Chicago; trumpeter Tony Mujica's group (at the Velvet Lounge, Bop Shop and the South Shore Jazz Festival in Chicago); Harrison Bankhead's quartet, featuring saxophonist Edward Wilkerson Jr., and percussionist Vincent Davis, (at a concert at Unity Temple, in Oak Park, IL.); Sludge 2000 [featuring guitarist Stefan Wittwer and bassist Marino Pliakis] at the Empty Bottle; saxophonist Arthur Taylor's quintet - (featuring trumpeter Billy Brimfield) at the Custer Street Fair, in Evanston, IL; percussionist Michael Zerang and vocalist Jaap Blonk, at Lunar Cabaret; pianist Steve Beresford (as a "surprise third set") at the Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music; percussionist Damon Short (in duet, and in a group performing music of Herbie Nichols), at Lunar Cabaret; reedist Ken Vandermark (in Caffeine, Steam, Witches & Devils, and other situationsn) at Lunar Cabaret & Bop Shop; and with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and saxophonist Michael Attias at Lunar Cabaret.

During 1998, Baker performed with Michael Zerang at the Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music; and at the Myopic Books improvisation festival with a quartet including trombonist Jeb Bishop, bassist Josh Abrams, and percussionist Chad Taylor, which was recorded for future release on BoxMedia. Other performances during 1998 included a trio with Zerang and pianist Sten Sandell, several guest performances with Vandermark & Williams' "Cinghiale & Friends", (where other guests included Lonberg-Holm, O'Rourke, Bishop, Sandell, and reedist Peter Brotzman); ongoing performances with Scanbake, Witches & Devils, Caffeine, duets with percussionist Damon Short; a trio with Sandstrom and Hunt; a quartet with guitarist Tony Suto, Sandstrom, and Hunt; in groups led by cornetist Rob Mazurek, trombonist Jeb Bishop, flautist Michael Mason, and saxophonist Cameron Pfiffner; and with O'Rourke, Zerang, Vandermark, percussionist Steve Butters, and multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp. Baker was also part of a group assembled & conducted by writer / producer Art Lange (which also included O'Rourke, Lonberg-Holm, reedist Guillermo Gregorio, and percussionist Carrie Biolo-Thompson) that recorded the first complete recording of Cornelius Cardew's "Treatise" for future release (either on Hat Hut, or one of their subsidiary / affiliate labels [eg, HatOlogy or Hat Art].)

Baker performs regularly as house pianist at the weekly Sunday evening jam sessions at Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge (2158 1/2 S. Indiana, Chicago). His activities as a writer / composer have been ongoing during the past twenty years, and some of his compositions have been recorded by Steam and Broken Wire.





Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music (Chicago)

Michael Zerang


London Ontario Jazz Festival (Canada)

Steam: Vandermark, Baker, Kessler, Mulvenna


South Shore Jazz Festival (Chicago)

Tony Mujica Sextet, w/ Mujica, W.Garcia, Andy Goodrich, Baker, Bankhead, V.Davis


Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz
& Improvised Music (Chicago)

Steve Beresford


Moers Music Festival (Germany)

Vandermark, Williams, O'Rourke, Kessler, Drake, Baker


Chicago Jazz Festival

Jim Baker trio with Kessler, Drake, plus Fred Anderson


Tampere Jazz Happening (Finland)

Witches & Devils: Williams, Vandermark, Lonberg-Holm, Baker, Bankhead, Hunt


FMP Festival (Chicago)

Rudiger Carl, Stefan Wittwer, and Baker


Chicago Jazz Fair

Brimfield, Taylor, Fenner, A.Brown, M.Cristol, L.Varro, Ajaramu, T.Colburn, Baker


Chicago Jazz Fair

Hal Ra Roux / Jim Baker Quintet



Group Title Artists Label
Michael Zerang / Jim Baker Duo "Earth Sessions" (Michael Zerang / Jim Baker) BOXMedia 2 CD
Broken Wire "Broken Wire" (Zerang, Baker, Lonberg-Holm, and guitarist / violinist / cornetist Daniel Scanlan) Eighth Day
Steam "Real Time" (Vandermark, Baker, Kessler, and drummer Tim Mulvenna) Eighth Day
Fred Anderson Quartet "Birdhouse" (Anderson, Baker, Bankhead, Drake) Okka Disk
Caffeine "Caffeine" (Vandermark, Baker, Hunt) Okka Disk
Ken Vandermark in four Chicago improvising trios "Standards" (including Vandermark with Scanlan & Baker; M.Williams & Zerang; K.Kessler & H.Drake; K. Drumm & S.Hunt) Quinnah
Nicholas Tremulis "Nicholas Tremulis" (Tremulis, Reupert, Jones, Barnes, Barnes, Brand, Robbins, Woods, plus Ra Roux Abou [Harold Jones] and Baker) Island
Nicholas Tremulis "Marriage Made in Heaven / You Call This Living?" (Tremulis, Reupert, Schmitt, Brand, Alexander, Hal Raru [H.Jones], Baker, Thomas) Disturbing






Myopic Improvisation Festival

(quartet with trombonist Jeb Bishop, bassist Josh Abrams, percussionist Chad Taylor, and Baker)



Cornelius Cardew's "Treatise"
(first complete recording)

(Guillermo Gregorio, reeds; Fred Lonberg-Holm, cello; Carrie Biolo-Thompson, percussion; Jim O'Rourke, synthesizer & organ; Baker, piano & synthesizer; group organized / conducted by Art Lange)


more info about Jim Baker

link to Michael Zerang's website