Bob Baldwin, Henna Review
Bob Baldwin is not a new name, but certainly, one that deserves wider recognition for the insurmountable influence he has had on the smooth-jazz genre. His resume includes many citations of achievement for a career that began in 1983 that brought forth his debut album, A Long Way to Go, released in 1988. Baldwin has garnered five SESAC Music awards. His 2015 release, MelloWonder: Songs in the Key of Stevie, honors Stevie Wonder and debuted at No. 16 on the Billboard Overall Jazz Chart. His latest endeavor, Henna is Baldwin’s 31st release which lends tribute to the earth’s beauty, Baldwin explains, “The beauty of our earth produces so many great and prosperous things. In fact, people have actually lived off of the virtues of this beautiful earth for thousands of years.” The album personnel overall is twenty-two amazingly talented musicians strong, which includes well-known contemporary collaborators, Walter Beasley, Jorel Flynn, Marion Meadows, Joey Sommerville, Ragan Whiteside, and Lori Williams.
Positives: Baldwin offers an aesthetic to his music that is joyful, uplifting, and indeed firmly rooted in the contemporary genre of music, adding a flavoring of R&B and jazz laced with groove in all the right places.
Bottom Line: Baldwin gives the listener a clear and present sound with an acoustic piano. An excellent example of his articulate playing is represented well on “In the Print.” Baldwin caresses the piano with melodic approaches that allow the melody to sing itself. Featuring his long-time group since the 70s, Dave Anderson (bass), Tony Lewis (drums), and Café Da Silva (percussion). That track is deliciously inviting. Uniquely funky is a groove-based tune “Club Life,” written by Baldwin/Meadows and previously recorded by Meadows, is given a funky fly treatment. Extended solos and exploration of the tight groove can be heard aplenty. This track features Meadows on sax, Tom Browne on trumpet, Rohn Lawrence on rhythm guitar, Brooke Alford on violin, Walter Beasley on saxophone, Joey Sommerville on trumpet and guitars are held down by U-Nam and Nils with Ragan Whiteside on flue and of course Baldwin adding piano, keyboards, bass, drums, and some tasty vocal ornamentation. Over 10 minutes of groove in perpetuity is on deck, hit that track first, and then work inward from there, you won’t be disappointed. That’s the short of it.