Is this Jazz?: An interview with Leland Baker

Since there is no live music happening around Rhode Island, it seems like right now is a great time to meet some of the local jazz musicians who not only provide live soundtracks for our nights out, but whose music may be bringing us even more joy and comfort now with our days spent inside. This will be a continuing series for the foreseeable future where I’ll be asking different musicians to answer a few questions so they’ll have the chance to tell you all about themselves and their musical journey.

First up, we have Leland Baker, a Providence-based tenor saxophonist and educator who plays regularly at various spots around the Northeast.

Ben Shaw: What drew you to music? 


Leland Baker: The ability it has in making a person dig deeper into themselves, society and/ or the overall existence of the universe.

BS: When did you start playing? 

LB: Age 14

BS: How did you first get into jazz?

LB: In college at Loyola University New Orleans. 

BS: When did you decide to pursue music as a career and how did you start? 

LB: Age 18. I started studying, practicing, and playing and hanging out in the local music scene of New Orleans.

BS: How has a career in music lived up to your expectations? How has it differed? 

LB: You can make a living off a career in music despite the challenges, and I am thankful for that since so many people when I was a bit younger told me otherwise. Sometimes it just takes a little diligence, faith and creativity. 

BS: Where do you usually play around town? 

LB: Courtland Club, The Parlour, Arigna, Isadora’s

BS: Is there one thing you think aspiring musicians should think about or do when they consider a career in music? 

LB: Have faith in the process of development.

BS: What concepts (melodic, harmonic, etc.) are you currently working on? 

LB: Sound and phrasing in particular.

BS: Beyond music, what other activities do you enjoy? 

LB: Reading (African American studies, world histories, religions), cooking and aviation. 

For more information and links to Leland’s music, go to lelandbaker.com. Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep listening to jazz!

Ben Shaw is a local composer, performer, and writer. Find him at benjaminshawmusic.com.