Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bob Baldwin - Mellowonder / Songs in the Key of Stevie

Four-time SESAC Award-winning and Grammy nominee Pianist/Arranger Bob Baldwin continues his flow of music, and follows up with his tributes to Michael Jackson and Songwriter extraordinaire Thom Bell with his MelloWonder/Songs In the Key of Stevie CD. MelloWonder… takes some of his favorite songs from the catalog of Stevie Wonder, and particularly a huge chunk between 1969-1974, when Baldwin believes this was the beginning of an era where Wonder turned the keyboard into a “one-man orchestra.” The project is a dream project, which took two years to complete.

“As a young budding musician and keyboardist, the key albums that impacted me the most were ‘Innervisions’, ‘Fulfillingness First Finale’, ‘Music of My Mind’, and ‘Talking Book,’” says the New York native. “These projects featured this behemoth analog keyboard they called ‘T.O.N.T.O.’ and Stevie’s Producers at the time (Bob Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil) were the most forward programmers of that instrument, and the producers of those projects. While they are flipping knobs and pushing buttons on T.O.N.T.O. machine, Stevie was getting busy on the creativity with the funky bass-lines, clavinets, Wurlitzer and Rhodes Keyboards. Those projects had a warmth that was unexplainable, and as a result, those four projects are very unique to his entire catalog, so I wanted to create my own vibe that spoke to his use of the keyboard as an arranging tool, which of course, is miles ahead these days due to the application of digital technology.”

“When I do a cover project, I want to make sure I’m not covering music that has not been overdone in the market. Stevie’s music has been covered thousands of time over the years but rarely by a keyboardist. Hugo Montenegro did a moog-based project back in the 1970’s, George Duke produced a record for Najee years ago “Songs in the Key of Life”, so we wanted to stay away from that period, but by-and-large, a keyboard-focused disc covering Stevie Wonder has not been done in 40 years. I pulled out the old vintage pieces; the Moog, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, but also added some new keyboard pieces to keep things current.”

Add to the fact that Stevie Wonder’s birthday is 65 (5/13), and his recently intense tour schedule, the timing of this project is pretty special in its’ own way. “In observing the vehicle that this living legend is driving today as he approaches his 65th birthday and his tour theme, the title “MelloWonder/Songs in the Key of Stevie” just felt right.

His 21st disc contains 14 songs total, of which 2 are original Baldwin tracks. He added some flava to a few of Stevie’s originals, such as “Rocket Love / Down to Earth”, “Love’s Light in Flight / Love Trippin’”, and “The Real Thing / Keepin’ it Real”. The disc features Marion Meadows, U-Nam, Chieli Minucci, Toni Redd, Ragan Whiteside, and Stevie sideman Ryan Kilgore, who was on his most recent 2014-2015 “Songs in the Key of Life” tour.

Bob Baldwin has been obliterating the lines between Urban, Jazz, and Gospel for years since his earlier works in 1988. This project is no different - a must-have for your BB collection. ~

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