Sue Baker is a versatile, Canadian Jazz and Blues vocalist. Baker was born in Orillia, Ontario, the middle daughter of Alan and Mary Baker. As a young girl she moved with her family to the 1000 Islands Region, situated along the north shores of the St. Lawrence River, settling in the small town of Prescott. Both parents, of English descent, were avid followers of jazz and swing music and as such, Baker grew up listening to the sounds of Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey and other great bandleaders emanating from her parents' Hi-Fi stereo system. Little did she know that singing the songs of these celebrated composers would one day become her true passion.
From an early age Baker derived great satisfaction through singing and in particular, has a vivid memory of receiving an enthusiastic round of applause after performing a solo in front of her Grade 2 class. She soon began to welcome any opportunity to sing at social gatherings. As a teen, she took up guitar lessons and would accompany herself singing both folk and contemporary songs in variety shows while she began to dabble in song writing. Performing with the concert and stage bands during high school further developed her appreciation for jazz and swing and exposed her to larger audiences. At 17, Baker joined a Dixie Land Jazz band as lead singer and was thrilled to begin earning money for doing something she loved. These opportunities provided her with an excellent musical foundation upon which she would continue to build throughout her formative years.
To broaden her vocal abilities, Baker was keen to sing diverse styles of music so when the opportunity arose to front an established Toronto based pop/rock band, only one year after completing high school, she seized it. Six nights a week, through the smoke and lights, Baker belted out songs made popular by artists such as Ann Wilson, Patti Smith, Linda Ronstadt and Chrissie Hynde while adjusting to her new life on the road. The popular band played "A-Circuit" nightclubs throughout Ontario, Quebec and as far east as Newfoundland. The experience proved to be both exhilarating and exhausting and ultimately would take its toll on Baker's vocal cords. After a few years of touring with the sought-after act and with no signs of getting a big break, Baker decided to temporarily step away from the business. Her first priority was to enroll in vocal lessons to learn how to strengthen and protect her voice so that she could safely return to singing. Her second priority was to find some balance in her life so that she could continue to be involved in the music business on a semi-professional basis without having to rely entirely upon it for a living. To do this she would need to find something to fall back on.
Baker picked up an administrative position with a law firm and after some much-needed rest formed a new band that would perform on a weekends only. This allowed her the flexibility she needed and gave her time to focus on songwriting. In the early 90's she co-wrote her first album "On the Rox" made up of 10 original songs that contained elements of both folk and rock music. The album was well received, and Baker enjoyed travelling throughout south-eastern Ontario promoting the CD and widening her fan base. She continued performing for another four years before recognizing that the clock was ticking and it was time to start a family. In 1995, only a year after her son was born, Baker hooked up with long time friend, Harold Roobol, and formed the children's entertainment group "H & S Express". This project allowed her to stay active in the music scene while avoiding the late nights that went hand in hand with the bar circuit. With her son often in tow, the 4-piece group travelled to schools and festivals performing popular children's songs by such Canadian artists as Fred Penner, Raffi and Sharon, Lois and Bram. This alliance would lead to the release of a second album for Baker entitled "Back to School". The group enjoyed performing regularly for just shy of twenty years and in 2015 was inducted into the Brockville and Area Music & Performing Arts Hall of Fame.
In addition to singing children's music, Baker fronted several other popular bands over the span of her career including an all-female band (AGB) that played everything from Cheryl Crow to Guns and Roses, proving once again she could cross over into different genres.
Bringing her back to her true roots in 2008 was an opportunity to perform with an Ottawa based jazz band which very quickly became a regular affair. It was around this time that Baker began to recognize her true passion for singing the legendary music of The Greats. "I realized that these songs I'd grown up with were part of who I was and I couldn't wait to start building a repertoire. I would spend hours listening to vocalists such as Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee and Dusty Springfield in search of songs that I wanted to explore vocally". Within a few short months of teaming up with the jazz group, Baker's captivating vocal style and energetic performances began earning her a new, more mature fan base. Through performances to sold out crowds at the Thousand Islands Jazz and Blues Festivals she continued to broaden her audience and create enthusiasm amongst her followers.
In 2017 and with much anticipation, Baker released her third CD entitled "Reminisce", made up of 11 popular jazz and blues standards. Upon listening, Conan DeVries of the Prescott Journal remarked that Sue's "vocal prowess, with its enviable mix of smooth subtlety and torch power, is on full display". Baker's crisp enunciation, broad tone and expressive musical phrasing can be heard throughout her soulful interpretation of each song chosen for the CD. The album was a hit with her fans and lead to numerous engagements for the group now going by the name "Sue Baker and the 1000 Islands Jazz Band".
For the past 11 years Sue has continued to sing and perform popular jazz and blues songs, backed by an array of talented musicians who share her desire to bring this era of music back to the forefront. In 2020, in recognition of her personal contributions to local culture, she was again inducted into the Brockville and Area Music & Performing Arts Hall of Fame. Throughout her journey Baker has shared the stage with the likes of Montreal-based vocalist, Skipper Dean (The Avalons and The Platters), as well as Robert Creighton, crooner, co-author and star of the hit Off-Broadway musical, CAGNEY.
It is clear that the diversity of styles offered by all of her musical experiences has helped to shape Baker's warm and engaging voice and explains her versatility and independence in selecting songs she likes to sing today. Baker's current band consists of Terry Blair (Keyboards), Hugh Gardiner (Alto Sax), Paul Gardiner (Electric Bass) and Brad Davidson (Drums).
Being community minded, she and her band have proudly performed at numerous corporate and fundraising events including the annual Palliative Care Telethon and Brockville General Hospital's "Heart and Solstice 2019". To keep their loyal fans coming back for more the group regularly hosts dinner shows at The Grindstone Steak House in Brockville. The 5-piece band is available for corporate events, receptions, concerts, cocktail parties, pub nights and private functions. Playing the legendary standards of Count Bassie, Fats Waller, Sam Cooke and more, Sue Baker and the 1000 Islands Jazz Band are sure to be the icing on the cake for your next special event.
"We really enjoy what we're doing and find that we are filling a gap for those who love this era of music".