Bobby Caldwell - LIVE at the Blue Note Tokyo (2007)

Bobby Caldwell
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It's tough to believe that nearly 30 years into his recording career, Bobby Caldwell has never released a "live" album.  Now completely independent and working through his own Starmine Records, Caldwell remedies that situation with Live at the Blue Note Tokyo, recorded during a series of 2007 dates in Japan.  But rather than using the album as an alternative "Greatest Hits" collection, Caldwell instead focuses the disc exclusively on his "big band period" -- the half decade in the late 90s when, on his Blue Condition and Come Rain or Come Shine albums, he successfully reached into the vaults and recorded a series of  authentic covers of well known jazz standards of the mid 20th Century. 

It's tough to believe that nearly 30 years into his recording career, Bobby Caldwell has never released a "live" album.  Now completely independent and working through his own Starmine Records, Caldwell remedies that situation with Live at the Blue Note Tokyo, recorded during a series of 2007 dates in Japan.  But rather than using the album as an alternative "Greatest Hits" collection, Caldwell instead focuses the disc exclusively on his "big band period" -- the half decade in the late 90s when, on his Blue Condition and Come Rain or Come Shine albums, he successfully reached into the vaults and recorded a series of  authentic covers of well known jazz standards of the mid 20th Century. 

Caldwell's divergence into the area of jazz standards in the 90s was a stark departure from the pop/soul work for which he was most noted, but its uniformly high quality won him critical acclaim and showed him to be a versatile vocalist who could handle Sinatra as well as Stevie Wonder (the artist to whom Caldwell was often compared in his early years).  And those discs also brought some wonderful period compositions by Caldwell, especially the excellent ballads "Tomorrow" and "April Moon" (both sadly omitted on Live).  

Live at the Blue Note includes a series of fine, familiar uptempo cuts, including "(I've Got You) Under My Skin," "Day In Day Out" and "Beyond the Sea" (Caldwell's most noted jazz cover), as well as the strong ballads "I'll Be Around," "Indian Summer" and "Don't Worry 'Bout Me."  And Bobby is in fine voice, staying relatively true to the studio versions of these tracks that he cut a decade ago.  The real treat is the band, which is absolutely hot throughout the recording and gives the kind full, immediate sound that is missing from the plethora of low budget "covers" albums filling the market today.

Longtime Bobby Caldwell fans will find little on Live that goes beyond the memorable big band studio albums that he previously released.  But for both newcomers and those who lost track of Bobby Caldwell after "What You Won't Do For Love," Live at the Blue Note provides an excellent take on some of the great songs of the 40s and 50s and a re-introduction to one of the great soul/jazz singers of our time.  Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 
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