Kenny Baker, a jazz musician who performed for sellout British audiences in the 1950s, died Dec. 7 in a hospital in Felpham in southern England. He was 78.Baker had been hospitalized for three weeks suffering from a viral infection. He is best known for his work with the band Baker’s Dozen, and for his numerous performances on film and TV soundtracks. A session musician, he performed with many stars, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Bennett. His work can also be heard on James Bond movie soundtracks. Born in Withernsea in northeast England, Baker briefly played piano, violin and accordion before settling on the cornet, a brass instrument similar to the trumpet. At 17, he headed to London, where he became a popular session musician. During World War II, he left the professional jazz circuit to serve with the Royal Air Force and help put on shows for British troops. After the war, his reputation as a soloist grew, and he shared top billing with comedy acts such as Benny Hill and the duo Morecambe and Wise. In the 1950s, Baker started playing with the Baker’s Dozen, a jazz band that packed in crowds throughout Britain. Earlier this year, Baker was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth II. He was also named the best trumpet player at the British Jazz awards, the third time he won the honor. Baker is survived by his wife, Sue, and a daughter.
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