Keyboardist/arranger/vocalist Bob Baldwin has released his latest album NewUrbanJazz.com displaying a "Funk Advisory" warning on the front cover that says this disc contains "Explicit Groove," which it definitely does, and donning a shot of Baldwin smiling devilishly into the camera on the back of the album. Produced and arranged by Baldwin and co-produced by his drummer Dennis Johnson, NewUrbanJazz.com is smooth funk for today’s audiences taking classic R&B, jazz and funk intonations from legends like Stevie Wonder, Ashford & Simpson and Roberta Flack and giving them a contemporary treatment. NewUrbanJazz.com is exactly what its title says it is, music that revitalizes jazz with an urban voicing that modernizes classic grooves. One of the best examples of this is Tyrone Iris’ vocal stylizing on "Seems like One of Those Daze." The way Tyrone hugs the curves around the bends in the grooves is A-class as he blows out a youthful glee that can charm you as sweetly as the late Luther Vandross.
What I like about Bob Baldwin is that he plays fair and invites female vocalists, too. Jocelyn Brown’s voice is dreamy on "Somebody Else’s Guy" huddling softly with the keyboard melody, and Toni Redd’s singing on "It Is What It Is" and "Flying High" produces a cool funk sonorous on these tracks that resounds with ringlets of glistening naves. Baldwin and saxophonist Najee’s rendition of the Stevie Wonder classic "My Cherie Amour" will make you melt into the smooth sultry soul-funk lines, and the mixture of Baldwin with flutist Ragan Whiteside and saxophonist Marion Meadows on "She’s All That" is paramount for listeners who want to experience what heavenly jazz is like with this trio’s concoction of smooth jazz.
Baldwin has been known for spicing up rhythmic movements with some Brazilian-zest on previous albums and he bedazzles the listener again with those shrubs of upbeat percussive shimmies along "Flying High," which features Frank McComb on background scat vocals and synth solo. McComb stays active as a live performer and is familiar to fans that have seen him in concert on the bill with R&B/soul artists like Mikelyn Roderick, James Day and a number of others. Baldwin performs a special tribute to the late bandleader/jazz pianist Joe Zawinul in the track that bares his name. The harmonizing is glorious with a horn section that honors Zawinul beautifully mortared by funky organ rolls performed by the nimble fingers of Ike Stubblefield. Vocalist Freddie Jackson makes a guest appearance on the album singing beside Tyrone Iris for "Natural Thing" giving the album a taste of classic jazz/R&B, which Baldwin counterbalances with the hip-hop vocalese of Della Croche on the title track injecting the album with the sound of where jazz/R&B is moving towards.
Bob Baldwin is a musician who makes the artists that he is collaborating with sound excellent. Like a movie director who knows how to work with an actor’s strengths, Baldwin can zero in on an artist’s assets and bring those elements into the foreground. Baldwin’s ability to classify artists has enabled him not only to work with the right musicians for himself, but also it has been useful in his line of work as a radio DJ. He has launched the new urban jazz format at radio stations in Georgia, Florida and Bermuda and would really like it to happen in New York City, who recently lost their smooth jazz station. After all, New York City is the home of the Apollo Theater. It is unreal that New York City would not be a part of this new wave of jazz musicians.