Bob Baldwin | Henna Review
By Griff Stevens
American pianist and composer Bob Baldwin grew up in New York state. His father, Robert Baldwin, Sr. was also a pianist who worked with luminaires Keter Betts and Art Davis. The musical legacy also extends to his cousin Larry Willis of Blood, Sweat, and Tears. With this much pedigree in his blood, Baldwin was undoubtedly destined for greatness.
His latest endeavor, Henna, his 31st in a long line of enthralling releases, finds inspiration in organic sounds and naturalness, like Henna, which is the powdered leaves of a tropical shrub, used as a dye to color the hair and decorate the body. Baldwin accentuates each track’s virtues with an honesty that lends itself to the essence of the album. The album is split between two groups. Tracks 1-6 feature his NY-based band of 30 years Dave Anderson (bass), Tony Lewis (drums), and Café Da Silva (percussion). An extraordinary guest flutist Ragan Whiteside appears on the first single, “Long Weekend (See You on Tuesday). While vocalist, Lori Williams, adds her seductiveness to “No Longer Lost.” Additional contributors include Rohn Lawrence, Walter Beasley, Tom Browne, Marion Meadows, Marcus Anderson, Brooke Alford, Joey Sommerville, Oli Silk, Barry Danielian, Nils, and U-Nam.
“In The Print” features Baldwin’s New York-based band of thirty years with Dave Anderson (bass), Tony Lewis (drums), and Café Da Silva (percussion). Baldwin’s keyboards and piano sounds fill the air with a relaxed melody over Anderson’s rich bass sound and Lewis’ and Da Silva’s buoyant groove. The combination of drums and percussion gives a depth of groove to the six-eight feel that Baldwin’s melodic playing thrives on. Baldwin’s chords build phrases as he spins single notes into arching shapes of expression.
“Club Life” has a funky groove that Baldwin’s keyboards dance upon as the horns and synth accent and stab to build the energy. This track has been in Baldwin’s repertoire for some time. Here he is joined by a community of his friends to make the best cut on the album. Guest include Rohn Lawrence, Walter Beasley, Tom Browne, the aforementioned Meadows, Whiteside and Williams, Marcus Anderson, Brooke Alford, Joey Sommerville, Oli Silk (from across the pond), Barry Danielian, with West Coast guitarists Nils and U-Nam. Each performer adds their own unique blend of excitement and musical adventure. Baldwin is always interacting with the soloist as he accompanies, which is a testament to his listening skills and sensitivity.
Henna offers a varied listen from groove-based explorations to feel-good tunes to pop-laden expressions. The totality of the album is a satisfying listen from start to finish—another diamond in Bob Baldwin’s discography collection.
Release Date: January 13, 2020
Label : City Sketches Inc