Some contemporary smooth jazz tracks can be uplifting while others can be monotonous to the point of blandness. Then again there are others, and I guess this is really what it is all about, that are just great to listen to.
One artist who perhaps does not always grab the big smooth jazz superstar headlines, but is consistently great to listen to, is Bob Baldwin and although the album Standing Tall has been on release in the USA for over a year The Secret Garden, at the time of year when peoples thoughts are turning to buying gifts, thought it a good time to jog peoples attention on just how good a smooth jazz album this really is.
Bob Baldwin was born on December 9 1960 in Mount Vernon, NY and reared in Westchester County. His father, Robert Baldwin, Sr. who is also an accomplished jazz pianist, taught Bob how to play the piano at the age of four. He studied both classical and jazz standards and includes Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis to Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye as his musical influences. Having earned a degree in Business Administration from Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA while working at MCI and Sprint Communications, he later met one of the inspirations of his formative years, Herbie Hancock, at his Sony Innovators performance in Beverly Hills in 1989. It was Roberta Flack who selected Baldwin as the winner of that award for his first album, The Dream Featuring Bob Baldwin, that was released on Malaco Jazz Records in 1988.
When, in 1986, he formed the The Bob Baldwin/Al Orlo Project it was their performances at the legendary Bottom Line in New York City that led to his first production with trumpeter Tom Browne. This opportunity was also the route to his first album and eventually to his two-album deal with Atlantic Jazz Records, Rejoice in 1990 and Reflections of Love in 1992. Baldwin’s fame began to grow as Reflections of Love peaked at #7 on the contemporary jazz chart. The Project also proved to be a stepping stone for other band members. Many went on to work with some of the most popular jazz and pop bands in the world including: Spiro Gyra, Michel Camilo, Paul Simon, Luther Vandross, Roberta Flack, The Silos, The Average White Band, The Temptations and Ben E. King.
As Bobs career progressed he didn't let his business acumen go to waste. He independently produced his 2000 creation Bob Baldwin.com that was subsequently distributed through the powerful Virgin/EMI Network. It sold an impressive 60,000 copies and made #17 in the Billboard contemporary chart. Bob Baldwin.com featured such smooth jazz greats as Gerald Albright, Marion Meadows, Armsted Christian, Dean James, Eric Essex and Tom Browne.
He also used his business skills to develop and negotiate his recording deal with Narada Jazz and his debut on that label is Standing Tall. The result is what has been described as a vibrant, meaningful 11 track CD filled not only with great grooves, but also uplifting, memorable works of art.
Baldwin says, "I like to keep my finger on the pulse of new trends, like neo-soul. Jill Scott, D'Angelo, Eryka Badu and so many others really have something great going on. What I'm doing on the new album is taking inspiration from them and putting it into an instrumental jazz framework."
Baldwin’s music is of such quality that he really doesn’t need to fill his releases with high-powered guest appearances. However, when you have friends like Roy Ayers, Chieli Minucci, Phil Perry, Kim Waters, Will Downing and Marion Meadows you might as well as include them in the mix.
Vibes master Roy Ayers joins Bob on the modern classic ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’, which Ayers composed and recorded in the 70s. Vocalist Will Downing also lends a hand to ‘Sunshine’, while Phil Perry does the honours on ‘Too Late’. Saxophonist Marion Meadows, also a frequent collaborator, joins Baldwin on ‘It's A New Day’.
Personal Secret Garden favourites from the album are really Bob Baldwin classic feel good smooth jazz tracks. Like Brian Culbertson but different one could say. Best examples of these are undoubtedly track #1 ‘Stand Tall’ and track #9 ‘Lets Fly Away’. ‘Too Late’, on the album twice in vocal and instrumental form, is completely hypnotic and guaranteed to have any listener with only an ounce of soul in his or her body singing along compulsively.
Bob Baldwin is a high quality artist of many parts. Those wishing to discover more could do a lot worse than starting with Standing Tall.
Do you have any comments on what you have found in this months Secret Garden? Do you have a favourite Smooth Soul Survivor that you would enjoy being featured in a future edition? If so please contact the Smooth Jazz Vibes Guest Book or e-mail me on DenisPoole@AOL.com.Posted by Denis Poole at December 24, 2003 4:18 PM