BOB BALDWIN: (Label: Nu Groove Records)

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Piano man Bob Baldwin’s been in the business for over 20 years and in that time he’s built up a considerable following and with this new project and a supportive new label he’s set to add to his fan roster. Baldwin’s mission statement here is to not just to make music that will set feet tapping but to create sounds that allow listeners to re-enjoy the form, style and harmonic sophistication of jazz. To that end he’s taken the sexiness of contemporary urban soul and bonded it to sophisticated jazz harmonies, ensuring that each of the 16 cuts here have a defining groove. Hear it all on the opener ‘Jeep Jazz’. It’s an unusual but infectious cut that combines the feel of Guru with the harmonics of Take 6. Featuring vocals from Zoiea it surely fits Baldwin’s foot-tapping criterion. ‘Seems Like One Of Those Days’ (with vocal from Tyrone Iris) ‘Don’t Keep Me Waiting’ (vocal from ASoulBorn) and ‘New Urban Jazz’ (rap from Della Croche) offer more of the same though with more emphasis on the Guru influence. Vocals of a different kind come from Phil Perry and Jocelyn Brown. The Perry track is remix of ‘Too Late’, a song from an earlier Baldwin album while Brown has a fresh stab at her perennial ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ transforming it into a tight, two step dancer with a shimmering piano solo as its focus. Of the straight instrumentals, the Frank McComb collaboration ‘Flying High’ leaps out while cuts like ‘Third Wind’ and ‘All Nite’ prove there’s nothing ‘light’ about New Urban Jazz … even the Najee-led take on ‘My Cherie Amour’ is no middle-of-the-road throwaway. Then there’s another of the album’s focal points – ‘Joe Zawinul’… a heartfelt tribute to the late jazzer. Featuring Ike Stubblefield’s funky organ and a feisty brass section, it’s no wonder that Quincy Jones has suggested it as a Grammy contender. Whatever, I believe that Joe would approve of the track. Indeed the great man would approve of the whole album.
(BB) 4/5