By A. Scott Galloway
Bob Baldwin Biography
Across a career for which a two decade milestone was achieved in 2013 with his twentieth CD Twenty, Bob Baldwin has proven to be one of the most ubiquitous and ingenious chameleons of Contemporary Jazz - both in his own projects and those he has endeavored upon for others. Recently, he has twice honored the canons of giants: Never Can Say Goodbye: A Tribute to Michael Jackson (2010) and Betcha By Golly Wow / The Songs of Thom Bell (2012).
For 2015, Baldwin turns to the sprawling catalog of Stevie Wonder to create one of his finest projects ever: MelloWonder: Songs in the Key of Stevie – an unprecedented one-from-the-heart that has taken him two years to lovingly assemble.
MelloWonder is 14 songs - 12 covers and two originals – primarily featuring Baldwin on a battery of ivories, keyboards and synthesizers along with special guests that include saxophonists Ryan Kilgore (currently a member of Stevie’s Wonderlove band) and Najee, and flautist Ragan Whiteside. Highlights include “Creepin’,” “Lately,” “Love’s Light in Flight,” “You and I”, and “Rocket Love.”
In addition to his work as a musician, Bob Baldwin hosts a nationally syndicated weekly radio show ('The NewUrbanJazz Lounge' broadcast across the African American Public Radio Service and the Internet) and author of the music biz E-book “You Better Ask Somebody (Staying On Top of Your Career in the ‘Friggin’ Music Business)” (2011).
Bob Baldwin [born Robert Garfield Baldwin, Jr. in Mt. Vernon, New York] is a jazz artist, composer, keyboardist, producer, arranger, radio host and author.
His father, Robert Garfield Baldwin Sr. who never recorded one solo LP under his leadership, played piano with bassists Keter Betts and Art Davis. Bob’s cousin is renowned pianist Larry Willis so he clearly stems from musical excellence.
Bob began being taught piano by his father at age 4. His musical influences include Herbie Hancock, Patrice Rushen, Chick Corea, Earth Wind & Fire, Ramsey Lewis, Stevie Wonder and the late, greats Joe Sample, Miles Davis and George Duke. In 1986, he formed The Bob Baldwin/Al Orlo Project in New Rochelle, NY, performing at the legendary club the Bottom Line in New York City, opening up for Tom Browne of “Funkin’ for Jamaica” fame, and this led to his first production effort with trumpeter Tom Browne on one of the first-ever gospel-jazz offerings, No Longer I.
In addition to plum sideman work complimenting the likes of singers Phil Perry and Will Downing, and the late, legendary instrumentalists Grover Washington, Jr. and Noel Pointer, The Dream Featuring Bob Baldwin released a concept project in 1988, prophetically titled I've Got a Long Way to Go on Malaco Jazz, and that led to Bob meeting his heroes Roberta Flack and Herbie Hancock at a Sony Innovators ceremony in Beverly Hills. Bob was selected by the aforementioned Flack from over 300 applicants and that led to an eventual signing by then President Sylvia Rhone to the Atlantic Jazz label. He released Rejoice (1990) and Reflections of Love (1992) featuring Lenny White, Will Downing, Marion Meadows, and James Robinson, among others. A third album for Atlantic Jazz, State of Mind was recorded in 1994 but never released due to the shuttering of the label. “I remember that day like it was yesterday, sitting in the office talking to the suits on Dec 1, 1992, watching the Christmas tree outside the Atlantic office window, being lifted up at the Rockefeller Center in New York, getting the bad news about the label. That’s when I really started my track about recording independently.”
By the time of Bob’s 20th release, Twenty, fans witnessed him pay homage to the legends while staying a step ahead of whatever was hot-n-happening in the era. A choice selection of those 20+ highlights is as follows:
2000’s Bobbaldwin.com was his first independent release on City Sketches Records through the notorious Orpheus Records (Charles Huggins) featuring Gerald Albright, Marion Meadows and Armsted Christian (RIP).
2002’s dual releases Standing Tall, and The American Spirit on Narada and Shanachie Records were cathartic and ultimately triumphant artistic reactions to the tragic events surrounding the World Trade Center on 9/11 2001, where he performed there just two months prior.
2004’s Brazil Chill was inspired by six weeks spent in Rio de Janiero and Ipanema, and featured Ivan Conti and Alex Malheiros of the acclaimed trio Azymuth, Armando Marcal, Café Da Silva, Andriano Giffoni, Leo Gandelman, Toquarto Mariano, and pianist Marcos Ariel (who played chorinho flute).
2005 delivered an extra shot of his Brazil experience with All in a Day’s Work.
2007 brought the release of his DVD “Live from Croton on the Hudson,” NY, an outdoor festival that drew over 6,000 people overlooking the beautiful Hudson River.
2008’s NewUrbanJazz.com fused Jazz and Funk with vocals, and featured Jocelyn Brown, Frank McComb, Phil Perry and Freddie Jackson. A 2011 follow-up 2011’s NewUrbanJazz.com 2 / Re-Vibe featured Glenn Jones and Porter Carroll, Jr.2009’s Lookin' Back reflected on his career back to his first recordings going back to 1988.
Baldwin also released the gospel-jazz missive Never Out of Season and the holiday offering The Gift of Christmas. Beyond his sprawling catalog of recordings, Bob Baldwin has used music to support social causes and to give back to the community.
His internet-only release City Sketches - a disc privately released commemorating the 1996 Olympics - is a musical portrait of the city of Atlanta celebrating the city’s unique history. Violinist Regina Carter so loved "Downtown Underground" that she in turn recorded it on her CD, Something for Grace. Baldwin performed for the athletes at Atlanta's Olympic Games and shared the stage with Roy Ayers and Chuck Loeb at the Club Benson and Hedges Music Festival. Then in 2000, he travelled to South Africa with Marion Meadows for a historical concert.
Baldwin was the Curator of the NewUrbanJazz @ the Arts Exchange in White Plains, NY. Collaborating with ArtsWestchester and the White Plains Youth Bureau, Baldwin presented a workshop that would prepare young people for a career in music. In 2010, his Jazz for Haiti program raised over $60,000.00 for the American Red Cross of Northern New Jersey. And in 2013 he produced the benefit concert "Music for Dave" to assist Latin Jazz legend and stroke victim, flautist Dave Valentin, with funding for his ongoing treatment and rehabilitation. He reached out to Larry Rosen, the original GRP Records owner (RIP), who signed Valentin to his first deal, who contributed to the event.
Wedding his many talents to a fierce streak of conscious independence, Bob Baldwin sees himself as more than just an artist but a human being in control of his destiny and with a legacy of artistic benevolence to pass on.
Musician: Bob Baldwin
Festival: The Iridium, NYC