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Bob Baldwin: The American Spirit: A Smooth Jazz Celebration

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There’s been an overload of 9-11 homages in just about every musical format imaginable. Contemporary pianist, arranger and producer Bob Baldwin conceived a record that’s a tribute to the American spirit, too, one that he hopes will help promote healing and inspiration.

Amazingly, Baldwin has been able to overcome the most difficult aspect of doing a tribute of this sort-not having it sound hokey while still expressing sentiment. He successfully achieves that on The American Spirit by creating unencumbered arrangements with universal themes, and many of the selections recall Bob James’ sophisticated light funk.

Probably, the strangest thing about this effort is that the renditions of the various anthems-“God Bless America,” “My Country Tis of Thee,” “America the Beautiful”-actually sound better, and are more effective, than the originals and pop covers on the CD. The cores of these grand American national themes are intact, but the songs are presented with a fresh contemporary approach-sounding far too hip to be the same ones used for school assemblies and sporting events.

Without question, that’s the beauty of The American Spirit.