If you thought you lived in a musical world that is characterized by brevity, where singles take precedence over albums and where downloads are preferred to CD or vinyl, smooth jazz superstar Bob Baldwin is about to make you think again. His ‘Brazilian American Soundtrack’, that is out now on the Red River label, is that most precious of gems, the double album. It not only features twenty six (yes twenty six) stunning cuts but also, with ten of the tracks being in excess of six minutes in duration, has the confidence to turn back the clock to the time when artists were not constrained by misguided industry formulas on how songs should sound and how they should be constructed.
‘Brazilian American Soundtrack’ is Baldwin’s twenty-third CD and he uses it to continue his quiet but steady love affair with all things Brazilian that began in 2004 with the critically acclaimed ‘Brazilian Chill’. Not that this latest project is wall-to-wall ‘Latin jazz’. In fact it is far from it. Baldwin has structured the collection in two ‘movements’ with the first, ‘Rio-Ipanema’, being a wonderful alchemy of Brazilian rhythms fused effortlessly with some of Baldwin’s trademark R & B grooves. It is this sublime fusion that makes this ‘first disc’ fourteen song set eminently ready to play out as a backdrop to the best party you may ever have and, in addition, underpins the aptly titled ‘Ipanema Fusion’, a track with serious club credentials and the first to be offered to radio. However, just as good is the decidedly soulful ‘Lookin’ At Me’ that Baldwin co-writes with Gianna Welling who delivers a standout performance on vocals.
Movement II, ‘New York’, kicks off with the very Baldwin-esque ‘Home From Work’ that provides all the melody you will ever need. It features the always-excellent Ragan Whiteside on flute and is in the fine company of the sumptuous ‘My Soul’ that shimmers with excellent sax from Marion Meadows.
Elsewhere a blockbuster reimagining of the Kool & The Gang smash ‘Summer Madness’ might well be the best cover version to be released this year yet, that said, the colossally cool take on Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’ proves to be as delightful as it is surprising.
Talking of cool, it simply doesn’t get better than the stunning ‘Summers Over’ and although Porter Carroll II lends his smooth soul vocal to the equally chilled ‘For You’ it is picture perfect trumpet from Gabriel Mark Hasselbach that ignites the hugely brassy ‘Mobile – Global’.
This ‘New York’ set includes not one but two tributes to Earth Wind & Fire champion Maurice White who died earlier this year. The first, the silky smooth, Latin infused, ‘Maurice’ is outstanding and the perfect companion for the totally tuneful ‘The Message’.
‘Brazilian American Soundtrack’ is, without doubt, the musical event of 2016 and comes hugely recommended.