Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. The new CD from versatile keyboard player Bob Baldwin is All In A Days Work. It is his first on 215 Records and his tenth overall. Released this fall, and following on from his work as Executive Director of the hugely successful Croton Point Park Music Fest in Croton NY, it comes at a busy time for Baldwin as he juggles performing and recording with his duties as DJ on the morning show at KJAZ 98.1 in Bermuda. The album is a fresh mix of Latin, R & B and smooth jazz rhythms all enhanced by Baldwin’s stylish production and the collaboration of top notch guest performers.
Bob Baldwin was born in Mount Vernon, NY and grew up in Westchester County. He learned to play piano from his father, the accomplished jazz pianist Robert Baldwin Sr. who shared the stage with the likes of Max Roach and Stevie Wonder. During his development Baldwin Jr. studied both classical and jazz standards. Bob worked at MCI and Sprint Communications and while with them attended Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA where he earned a degree in Business Administration.
In 1986 he formed the The Bob Baldwin/Al Orlo Project and 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, The Dream Featuring Bob Baldwin. It was released on Malaco Jazz Records in 1988. In 1989 Roberta Flack selected Baldwin as the winner of a Sony Innovators award for that album and during the ceremony in Beverly Hills he got the chance to meet Herbie Hancock who had been one of his major influences in his formative years.
Securing a two-album deal with Atlantic Jazz Records Baldwin released Rejoice in 1990. Reflections of Love followed in 1992 and climbed to #7 on the contemporary jazz chart but the association came to an abrupt end when the label folded in 1994.
As Bobs career progressed he did not let his business training go to waste. He independently produced his 2000 creation Bob Baldwin.com that was subsequently distributed through the Virgin/EMI Network. It sold an impressive 60,000 copies and made #17 on the Billboard contemporary chart. He also used his business skills to develop and negotiate his recording deal with Narada Jazz where he released the CD Standing Tall in 2002. He later negotiated a deal with the now defunct A440 label to release Brazil Chill in 2004. Prior to the cessation of that labels trading he had to again rely on his business acumen by purchasing the masters of Brazil Chill. This proved to be a shrewd move as subsequently the majority of A440’s material was auctioned off in an Illinois bankruptcy court.
The Latin rhythms that were a center piece of Brazil Chill are again in evidence on All In A Days Work. This is apparent as early as the first track, the sophisticated, Latin laced ‘New York Minute’ where rippling keyboards from Baldwin and excellent flute from Ragan Whiteside makes this smooth as smooth can be. A similar vibe permeates ‘The Very Last Night In Rio’. Big, brassy and funky too, if ever there was a last night in Rio this is surely how it would feel. Also Latin tinged is the wonderfully laid back ‘Day-O’ with an intro inspired by the Earth Wind and Fire classic ‘Sun Goddess’ and Mo White style backing vocals from Zolea.
Zolea moves center stage on ‘Sunrise’ and makes a nice job of this gentle piece of smooth R & B whereas with the second vocal track on the album, ‘Can You Feel It’, Tonni Smith makes this urban soulful roller sound like a modern day dance classic in the making. In fact it’s so memorable that Baldwin takes a one minute snippet of the same number and uses it as the CD’s play out track.
The album is of a consistently high standard throughout and Baldwin’s production skills in developing the full sound of Dave Mann on sax and Barry Danielian on trumpet is a major feature of the recording. These excellent horns combined with a memorable smooth jazz melody from Baldwin really light up the slightly retro sounding ‘Steamy’. It’s a track that could well be defined as mid tempo chill and when later in the album Bob chooses to reprise it as a cool 51 second interlude the chill factor is even more pronounced. Chill is also on the agenda with ‘Don’t Get Twisted’. Penned by Baldwin ten years ago this slice of top notch late night smooth jazz is moody, jazzy, subtle and a full seven minutes and forty four seconds long.
The first track to be identified for radio play is the title cut where infectious backing vocals and the horns of Mann and Danielian provide ‘smooth jazz with body’ while at the other end of the spectrum is the dreamy and delightful ‘Quality Time’. Cool flute from Ragan Whiteside and the tinkling keys of Baldwin blend to evoke the sounds of a gently running mountain stream.
‘Quirky’ could be better titled as ‘bouncy’ as this, combined with tight and funky, is what it is. Phil Hamilton’s guitar work is notable as is the way Bob glides his keyboard melodies in and out to make this a real foot tapper. A genuine piece of quality smooth jazz and perhaps the best track on the album is the hugely catchy ‘Third Time’s The Charm’. The horns, again great but this time understated so that less is definitely more, should help this one finds its way to radio.
I have previously summed up the music of Bob Baldwin as being simply great to listen to and All In A Days Work continues to re-enforce that opinion. His move to 215 Records will mean that both Bob Baldwin.com and Brazil Chill will be re-issued early in 2006 but, for now, with All In A Days Work, smooth jazz fans everywhere have a listening delight in store.Posted by Denis Poole at January 8, 2006 8:49 PM