Over the past 15 years or so, the Atlanta-based keyboardist has made his way into the smooth jazz elite via a series of funky rhythm and jazz projects on mostly indie labels. Several of his recordings featured hints at his quiet but steady love affair with all things Brazilian, and here on his A440 Music debut, that quiet obsession becomes the magnificent focus. Not content to simply be an American emulating the music from afar, Baldwin creates a joyful celebration of the culture's deep and diverse rhythms by recording the date in Rio de Janeiro with a host of percussive minded native musicians.
Finding his own American smooth jazz meets the Rio groove thing somewhere between jolts of "Cafezinho" and the hardcore percussion forest of "Carnival," Baldwin jams with saxophonist Leo Gandelman, guitarist Torcquato Mariano, keyboardist Marcos Ariel (playing flute here), bassist Alex Malhieros, vocalist Zolea Ohizep and a handful of top drummers and percussionists--Café, Armando Marcal, Ivan Conte and Juliano Zanoni. Rather than simply fashion a collection of great tunes, Baldwin's intent is to create an entire Brazilian mood from start to finish. But there are concessions to his own native land. A return trip to Manhattan inspired the urban groove driven "New York Samba," driven by Café's seductive percussion textures. And amidst the exotica of the South American journey is the in the pocket, blues flavored smooth jazz ballad "Sho Nuff," featuring guest sax star Jeff Kashiwa.