Baker Millian

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Baker Millian emerged, like a wet crawfish, from the swampy environs of Crowley, LA. A simile plucked from the bestiary is only too appropriate, because as Millian evolved into a fine saxophonist in the…
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Artist Biography by

Baker Millian emerged, like a wet crawfish, from the swampy environs of Crowley, LA. A simile plucked from the bestiary is only too appropriate, because as Millian evolved into a fine saxophonist in the romping Texas tenor tradition, he moved through a series of territory bands whose names could arouse the interest of Noah, the ASPCA, a zoologist, and a Sioux hunting party, although not necessarily in that order. First it was the Yelping Hound Band in Crowley, where Millian had honed his instrumental talents on piano and saxophones in the alto and C-melody range before finding his true bark lay in the tenor. From 1927 through 1929, Millian soared with Evan Thomas' Black Eagle Band.

The next addition to this menagerie of a résumé was a group known as the Buffalo Rhythm Stompers. The tenor man was in the process of heading west, herding with that Texas unit until moving on to an unknown job in New Mexico and then a posting back in Houston with an ensemble under the guidance of Giles Mitchell, finally establishing a break in the zoological chain. An overview of Millian's career not reeking of feather, fur, or hoof would of course mention his early days with bandleader Chris Kelly in New Orleans, an aspect of the tenor man's shifting presence on various music scenes. Anyone with a Crowley connection is of course considered part of the Cajun music scene, no matter what genre of music winds up being involved. Recordings Millian made in the '30s as a sideman with Boots & His Buddies led one appreciative critic to comment, however, that Millian ". . .played in the Texas tenor style not unlike Herschel Evans."

From the '40s onward, on the other coast, Millian was associated with the jazz scene in California before literally fading into the fog somewhere between San Francisco and Oakland. During this period he was sometimes associated with famed classic jazz bandleader Bunk Johnson; he also supported himself working in the post office and became more of a part-time player. He does not seem to have performed on any jazz recordings after 1947; in fact, the amount of Millian available in general can be considered a bit wanting compared to the discographies of Evans, Booker Ervin, or other tenor players in this style. There are mainly the Boots & His Buddies collections, at least three of them available, documenting the career of an entertaining combo led by drummer Clifford "Boots" Douglas. Millian also blows on some recordings by rhythm & blues singer Ivory Joe Hunter.