Baker and Mitchell, not only exploded onto but dominated the 60's music scene. They brought a freedom that was more akin to Jazz and World Music than Rock and Roll.
Ginger Baker had an unusual approach and sound. His drumming was based on the rhythms of Africa. Cream's extended improvisations and his large drumkit offered him the opportunity to exploit those ideas.
Mitch Mitchell was simply a Rock and Roll Elvin Jones floating over the time rather than nailing it down. His freewheeling style supported by considerable chops was the best possible fit for Jimi Hendrix.
Ginger Baker 's performances in Cream had a unique feature. His feel for time was strongly rooted on the 1 and 3. This led to some legendary musical jousting matches with bassist Jack Bruce who occupied the same beats.
Mitchell like Baker was best in a live setting. Most of the Jimi Hendrix Experience recordings were done "live" in the studio. Mitch always dug deep inside a song playing contrasting but related rhythms. This left Bassist Noel Redding and later Billy Cox to handle the basic groove.
These two guys were largely responsible for expanding and freeing traditional rock drumming. They also reenforced the notion that groove was everybody's responsibility. This concept was unheard of in the Rock and Roll universe of the sixties where the drummer was expected to "police" the groove.
Unfortunately, these two great players would disappear from the thoughts of the many drummers they influenced. Mitch played very little after the death of Jimi Hendrix. He would die of natural causes in 2008.
Ginger Baker would get lost in the "Supergroup" Frenzy of the seventies. His horrible personality also had a dampening effect on his career. He's had a resurrection of sorts playing in the Cream reunion and has returned to his first love of Jazz, playing with a number of artists.
When I think of these two men, their greatest accomplishment was giving the drums a greater voice in the music and all of us are better for it.
The Groove Continues...