Bob Baldwin — Featured Artist Archives

March 2011

Bob Baldwin — Stylish Keyboardist On a Mission

Mount Vernon, NY,  native Bob Baldwin is unquestionably an unsung hero when it comes to the Contemporary/Smooth Jazz genre.  With much for which to be thankful, this most talented keyboardist is always striving to do more, say more, and give more.

Baldwin’s father, Robert Baldwin, Sr., was also an accomplished jazz pianist and upright bassist in his own right. Dad’s brief Pianist career included working with Keter Betts (Ella Fitzgerald’s main bassist) and Art Davis (the last bassist for the legendary John Coltrane), both Westchester residents.   Little Bobby Baldwin used to go to his dad’s jam sessions around county and studied the masters of the Westchester region, such local stars like Lou Derry, Jimmy Hill, Fred Smith, Carmen Leggio and others.

Fortunately, this journeyman was blessed to be taught to play the piano by his father at age 4. Meanwhile, we should seriously consider his musical influences as a youngster with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Patrice Rushen, Chick Corea, Earth, Wind and Fire, Joe Sample, Ramsey Lewis, Miles Davis, and George Duke. His musical voicings are a by-product of these artists.  It’s obvious this cast of prominent players made a profound impact on Baldwin’s musical journey.  Even after studying accounting, business, and broadcasting in college, he never strayed far from his first love.

In 1986, he formed The Bob Baldwin/Al Orlo Project in New Rochelle, NY. The Baldwin/Orlo Project performed at the legendary Bottom Line in New York City leading to his first production with trumpeter Tom Browne. This opportunity led to his first album and eventually to his two-album deal with Atlantic Jazz Records. The Project also proved to be a stepping stone for other band members. Many went on to work as instrumentalist men for some of the most popular jazz and pop bands in the world including: Spyro Gyra, Michel Camilo, Paul Simon, Luther Vandross, Roberta Flack, The Silos, The Average White Band, The Temptations, Ben E. King, the Broadway play “Momma Mia”, and Chick Corea.

In 1989, Bob met Herbie Hancock at his Sony Innovators performance in Beverly Hills in 1989, which also inspired him during his own formative years.
With Baldwin’s natural ability to weave life’s experience into music while creating inventive harmonies, he doesn’t really need to fill his releases with high-powered guest appearances.  However, he has used the likes of Roy Ayers, Gerald Albright Dean James, Jeff Kashiwa, Dave Mann, Chieli Minucci, Phil Perry, Jocelyn Brown, Kim Waters, Will Downing, Marion Meadows, Najee, Jocelyn Brown, the late Grover Washington, Jr. and Noel Pointer, Tito Puente alumni Ray Vega, Brazilian Percussion Cafe’ Da Silva on previous recordings over the years.

The chronology of quality CDs and quality experiences dates back to the ‘90s and includes such pearls as a chat with the late great Grover Washington Jr. – a chat that included information about the business of music, and, as Baldwin recalls, “he urged me to take a stab at controlling my recording catalog and don’t be so quick to give things up that may have value over time.”  Bob’s 2000 creation, Bob Baldwin.com, became a big independent undertaking but proved to be inspiring.
Every year brings excitement to the Baldwin Musical house, and 2010 was no different. After receiving the blessings from the estate of Pop icon Michael Jackson in February 2010, his first release of the new decade (his 14th overall) is simply titled Never Can Say Goodbye, a tribute to Michael Jackson, which showcases the harmonic sophistication of some of Jackson’s works from the 70s – 90s.

“At this point in my career, it’s really about taking my gifts and using them to help others, feed people, and develop people’s careers, giving them some valuable lessons in music along the way, as well as how to conduct yourself in a business setting, both on a local and national platform.”, says Baldwin.  Most recently, it’s been about creating programs that speak to these needs as well as feeding the musical palettes of our incredible music audience, which has a double benefit.

Baldwin was the Curator of the NewUrbanJazz @ the Arts xChange in White Plains, NY, with the blessings of Arts Westchester, with the hopes that it will continue.  “We had an incredible lineup of people and the response from the community has been wonderful. It was a nice shot in the arm for Westchester residents.”

Last year also brought forth the desire to produce two shows on behalf of Haiti. “Westchester Musicians for Haiti” was able to bring together some of the cream of the Westchester crop under one musical umbrella to raise some funds for the Arthur Schweitzer Hospital in Deshapeles, Haiti. He also produced the “Jazz for Haiti”, which featured a different blend of Contemporary and Latin Jazz at the Newark Symphony Hall (Chieli Minucci, Dave Valentin, Ruben Rodriguez, Chembo Corniel, and up and coming shining stars like Ragan Whiteside, to name a few), raising awareness of the tragedies of Haiti and shining some light on the American Red Cross, who has assisted tremendously in that region.

The pianist tries to never allow his business acumen go to waste.  He independently produced his CD (distributed through the powerful Virgin/EMI Network) Bobbaldwin.com, which sold an impressive 60,000 units.  He also used his business skills to develop and negotiate his recording deals with upstart labels 215 Records, NuGroove Records as well as Narada Jazz, all of which have since gone under.

His radio program “NewUrbanJazz Lounge w/ Bob Baldwin” is changing the sound of contemporary jazz in the midst of the debilitating hierarchy that is smooth jazz, which has lost over 18 stations in the last 20 months. The radio show covers contemporary jazz going back to the 70’s, which helps secure its legacy, but also brings to light new artists and fuses Urban and Brazilian flavors. It’s the perfect fix for contemporary jazz fans from all walks of life and, look for an all-out internet blitz for the new programming.

Baldwin draws his musical strengths from his spiritual source.  “God has been good to me and blessed me with a wonderful talent.  I look to him daily for direction and strength and give him thanks daily”. His Gospel influences are Tramaine Hawkins, Helen Baylor, Yolanda Adams and Vickie Winans.  “When you sing from God’s soul, you ultimately save souls”.  Hence, the feeling you get from Baldwin’s passionate playing comes from his spiritual source.”  Here’s a strong, driven artist on a journey that has as many miles as he chooses to add to it.  At this point, that journey shows no end in sight.

Portions provided by BobBaldwin.com