By Chris Burnett
As a contemporary jazz keyboardist, composer, and producer for the last 15 years, Bob Baldwin is continually maintaining his status in the music industry as a person to watch. With the new release of "Brazil Chill", his eighth US CD and 10th overall, Baldwin continues to garner additional international media attention; along with receiving rave reviews for his innovative integration of styles and sounds.
This is Baldwin's debut on the Chicago-based A440 Music Group Label since the release of his album "Standing Tall" hit the airwaves 18 months ago, hovering top 10 statuses in both Billboard and R&R Radio Charts.
When Roberta Flack first selected Baldwin as the 1989 Sony Innovator in Music, this Mt. Vernon, NY native has remained a dynamic artist known for pushing the envelope. Inspired after meeting legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock at this prestigious competition in Beverly Hills, Ca., Baldwin says that particular opportunity motivated him to reach toward his goal to create music "outside the box" by blending his own concepts of Contemporary Jazz with R&B grooves and funk music. The coveted Sony Innovator in Music award, coupled with the resultant national exposure, led to Baldwin?s two-album deal with Atlantic Records under the direction of then President Sylvia Rhone, and the subsequent release of his debut solo projects "Rejoice" and "Reflections of Love".
I first became aware of Bob Baldwin's music through his having made it available online at MP3.com. As you see by this article, Bob is a veteran musician and recording artist with several national charting releases for both his own label and major jazz labels alike. This musing will feature an article about Bob's career and his astute business sense, along with an interview discussing his approach to both music and marketing his products. In Part One, we will meet Bob via his biographical narrative, and Part Two will feature my interview dialogue with him. For more information visit: www.BobBaldwin.com
All About Bob Baldwin
Over the years, Baldwin has shared his inventive arranging, and prolific writing with an impressive roster of jazz artists who?ve appeared on his CDs. These artists include: the late legendary Grover Washington, Tom Browne, Pieces of A Dream, Roy Ayers, Marion Meadows, Chuck Loeb, Will Downing, Chieli Minucci, and Kim Waters, to name only a few US stars.
Known for collaborating with the highest caliber of talent, Baldwin recently explores South America to work with the likes of: guitarist Torcquato Mariano; saxophonist Leo Gandelman, percussionists C. Silva; and long-time Pat Metheny sideman, Armando Marcal; as well as, Ivan Conte and Alex Malheiros, of the legendary Brazilian Funk group Azimuth. All of these musicians contribute to his release, "Brazil Chill".
This particular CD was recorded in beautiful Rio de Janeiro; and New York City - which has a significant Brazilian music influence. Baldwin initiated the production of this recording by traveling to sunny Brazil, where he worked with musicians on that scene in order to capture a truly authentic Brazilian flavor.
"I?ve had a long desire to explore authentic Brazilian music, beginning with introduction to works by the late Antonio Carlos Jobim back in the ?70s when my dad would play his music on gigs," says Baldwin, whose father, Robert Baldwin, a jazz pianist taught him to play the piano at age 4. "Living in the NY/Tri-state area, I've always had Latin flavor in my music. I used to visit a hip Jazz club in NYC named Mikells and my friend, the drummer Joel Rosenblatt along with Anthony Jackson on bass were playing with Pianist Michel Camilo. I would also go and watch my uncle Larry Willis, who played for years with Jerry Gonzalez - Fort Apache Band at the Blue Note on many occasions. I've shared the stage briefly with Tito Puente and some of his great sidemen. That is part of being in NY, the diversity it brings, so my love for percussion has taken me to Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and now Brazil. The music of Brazil has a softer, more harmonic approach, and is inherently compatible with my own musical palate."
While other contemporary jazz artists have recently created music influenced by Brazil's pulsating rhythms and intoxicating sounds here in the United States, Baldwin is one of the few to actually invest in recording in that international epicenter of culture, music and travel. Of his latest endeavor, Baldwin best defines his motivation and musical direction as a true "melting pot". "It's Brazilian rhythms consisting of Bossa-Nova, Samba, the Partido Alto and Contemporary Jazz all rolled into one, each song carrying a different feel with a twist of Rio de Janeiro funk."
On, "Brazil Chill", Baldwin also returns to his 1970's-tinged Neo-Jazz roots and creates an emotive 55 minutes of alluring originals and even an upbeat remake of the Jackson classic, "I Want to Be Where You Are". This time around, Baldwin adds vocalese to his already numerous performance credits. He delivers a Bobby McFerrin-like scat vocal-solo on the track "Oasis of Love", as well as background vocal performances on several of the other numbers. His vocal sound is reminiscent of his signature CD101.9 (New York City) jingle package and is also further explored on his "Don't Get It Twisted" CD.
Known for uniquely bringing together the best performers in contemporary jazz and R&B, Baldwin's latest collaboration also marks a reunion with some old friends like New York vocalist Tonni Smith on "Funkin for Jamaica". He and Smith used to work together in Tom Browne?s band for many years. Baldwin features Smith's vocals on his funky, bass-laced tune, "Can You Feel It". There is also Jeff Kashiwa, whose contemporary saxophone stylings add the desired sweet and succulent sounds to Baldwin's composition, "Sho' Nuff".
Life, Music, and Business Synergy
Often described in the press and media as a chameleon, who was destined to play jazz, Bob Baldwin, Jr. was born in Mount Vernon, NY and reared in Westchester County, NY. The Jr. Baldwin credits his father, Bob Baldwin, Sr. for recognizing and nurturing his gifts at an early age. At age four, the elder Baldwin discovered his son's perfect pitch. Prior to illness, his father was an engineer and accomplished jazz pianist in his own right - Bob Baldwin, Sr. worked with former John Coltrane bassist, Art Davis; long-time Ella Fitzgerald bassist Keter Betts, legendary jazz drummer Max Roach and many others.
Throughout his youth, the Jr. Baldwin continually studied both, classical and jazz repertoires in private music lessons. However, his development of intriguing harmonies was no doubt honed due to his older sister's contemporary music record collection that included a wide range of inspiration from artists like: Oscar Peterson, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Earth, Wind and Fire, Chicago, Tramaine Hawkins, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Miles Davis.