Bob Baldwin

Cool Breeze

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The smooth jazz format has lent itself to an unfortunate trend towards sugary and fluffy generic album titles that hardly characterize the grit and energy of the music they represent. Boney James went the route with Sweet Thing and now Bob Baldwin's blandly titled but explosively executed Cool Breeze makes a strong case for not judging a disc by its cover. As with his independent City Sketches earlier this year, the keyboardist never quite approaches the free-for-all soul-fusion jam sessions which marked his early Atlantic albums, yet he throws enough aggressive, improvisational punches into these up-tempo romps to remind his old fans of the way he once pounded. Rather than crazed earthquakes, he gives us thoughtful, slickly produced tremors that lean towards gospel every so often. He also twists familiar pop hits like "Summer Breeze" and "Walk on By" into funky blue knots. His artful, no-frills jazz trio spins on "Cool Wind Blowing" and "I Give Unto You" make many of the other tracks seem overproduced and machine generated by comparison. While Baldwin knows how to balance electric and acoustic currents to great effect, he should consider stripping down like this more often in the future. Why hide behind smoke and mirrors when you have this much emotion to offer?

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