Steve, Michael, Inge, Bob, Marijn
Bob Baldwin, Michael Lington and Steve Oliver - September 12th 2009, London

We spoke to Bob Baldwin, Michael Lington and Steve Oliver just before their show in London on the last night of a four night, six gigs in a row tour in the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London. Sitting nice in a booth, we talked about their collaboration, SmoothJazz in Europe, Royal Michael, XXXL Bob and the magic of Steve!

Bob Baldwin | Michael Lington | Steve Oliver

SJEU: First of all, why the three of you together? We never heard of this combination!
Steve: We never heard of it either!
Bob: One of the thing is, we are all on the same label. That was the first initiative. I know Michael since 2001 and worked with Steve some four years ago. It's an honour to play with these guys!
SJEU: And what label is that?
Bob: NuGroove
SJEU: You started that, didn't you?
Bob: I didn't start it, but I was on it as one of the first guys.
SJEU: So you are all NuGroove artists?
Michael: For me it's the second time around and I was the second ever signed on the original NuGroove.
Bob: Was it called NuGroove then?
Michael: Yes, but it was a different decade!

SJEU: How did you prepare and did you do the rehearsals?
Steve: In advance we sent each other music, mp3's, charts. Each of us worked on it at home and then we got together here at London and met the other two musicians who are from London.
Michael: On the first day we arrived and rehearsed here for about 6 or 7 hours.
Steve: And than the show at night!
Michael: The first day was long!
Bob: But it was good though!
SJEU: And how did you make a playlist?
Bob: We split the songs up between us.
Michael: We try to cover up the basics, what people have heard on the radio and then threw something unique in. We each picked four of our songs that we wanted to do.
Steve: And some additional jam songs.
Michael: Yes, because we absolutely had no fun in playing our own songs!
SJEU: You have to make other arrangements, because e.g. Steve, you performance most of the time alone and now there is a saxplayer! How do you guys come up with the music?
Bob: Music is universal, we send the melodies to the guys and they learn what they learn and we just collaborate!
Michael: It's a different experience for all of us, because we are used to travel with our own bands and we don't normally play in a band of somebody else! What we do here is kind of unique for us, because you play on my stuff and I play on yours! And that's the beauty of it, it's something new, fresh and unique and it's fun! Just let go everything you know and be in the moment and create a new thing.
Bob: All these lead artists they know there own melodies so the melody is always constant, everybody knows their melody but we all add something different to it.
Steve: And I enjoy playing with these guys, Michael and Bob. It's been a blast and we are having a great time. And learning musically what everyone is bringing on the table and each night progressively changes because we are getting to know each other musically!
SJEU: You are playing on more days, how does that develop?
Michael: The first night, let's be honest, you try not to screw it up! The second night, you think, what did we do on the first night and then after that you can actually start to not worry about the music but really just play!
SJEU: But it still will be unique for us tonight?
Bob: It's a Saturday night audience!
Michael: And now that we know the show, we can throw everything in!

SJEU: We heard that you, Michael and Steve, played in Munich (Germany) last week. How was it to be there, also in Europe, because we are from SmoothJazz Europe!
Steve: It's really growing! And it was amazing because the people that showed up were for about 60% from other countries than Germany.
Michael: I was surprised about that, not only people form Germany, Austria but also Poland, Hungary, Denmark, England were there!
SJEU: So the promoters did a great job with that festival?
Michael: Somehow they reached folk! I was impressed!
Steve: Abolutely, it was very well organized and the passion behind the promoters was incredible.
SJEU: And for you Bob, how is to perform here in Europe compared to the US? Have you ever been here before?
Bob: I have been in the UK before and South Africa and Brazil. Maybe people outside the US like music a lot more!
Steve: It's part of their life I think, in a very passionate way.
Bob: In the US, Jazz is more televised and people just listen to the records.
Michael: Although there are great audiences in the US as well, just a different dynamic, it surprises me how much European audience know about the inner-workings of either the band or the recordings! Who played on it, who produces it, who wrote the songs! I doubt if people in the US really know these things.
SJEU: I (Marijn) know that I always read the booklets and thought that everybody does that! And I (Inge) think that in the US there are plenty of festivals but here it was only the second time! So people only have cd's to hear Smooth Jazz!
Michael: When I grew up here in Europe, I read the booklets! But I thought that it was because I am a musician that I wanted to know who is playing on a cd. But not only musicians, but all audience do that!
SJEU: A lot friends of ours let's say "exchange" names by reading this information and learn of other musicians.
Bob: Overhere, once they learn about you, they get all your stuff and get the whole catalogue!
SJEU: In a few years, we are sure, that this music will become very popular. We also have plans to organize a Smooth Jazz conference next year. So that you all guys come over and play for the venue owners. And we spoke to Jeff Lorber about that, and Dave Koz and they support the idea. So we have a lot of backup from the artists.
Bob: The artists are never the problem.
SJEU: Well that's the reason we started SmoothJazz Europe, to promote you and your music in Europe. And we want everybody to get to know what Smooth Jazz is, even our neighbour! And not only the cd's but the live performances as well! So you are not only playing for the people here in London, but all the people we want to reach!
Michael: Thank you that you started this initiative for Contemporay and Smooth Jazz and have such a passion.
SJEU: Well, we are passionate because we started with the music and the cd's which are great!

SJEU: Steve...why the one man band? Because it's so unique what you do!
Bob: Can I answer that one just in a couple of words? Because he can!
SJEU: Steve, are you a keyboarder? Because all of the registrations and the timing?
Steve: Yes, I am a frustrated keyboarder! But everything has to be right on time, my foot has to touch this, etc.
SJEU: But how is to do it solo or tonight with the others? Ho do you combine it all?
Steve: Well it's kinda nice actually for me because I can play laid back a little bit. Because doing a solo (or duo) show, you have to cover all the basics. And when I play, I hear things and I am arranging when I am playing and think, let me try this or let me try that. And it is these years of playing solo that I discovered that I am hearing these things I want to create at that time! When you play live, music comes to life! So just by trying things out and experimenting, that's what I live for!
SJEU: And for you Bob, how is it play with such a guitarplayer?
Bob: The guy is very talented, what can I say! And he can experiment with his chords and is layering and adds different sounds to the gig.
SJEU: And does that mean that you have to play different?
BB: No, I just try complement on what they do.
Steve: That's what I love to play with Bob because I am thinking as a second keyboardplayer. All kinds of colours and adds while he is playing, that's what I like doing.
SJEU: That was what I was thinking when I saw the DVD: a keyboardplayer with a guitar!
Bob: He is like the baseball player in the team who plays first base, second base, pitcher, catcher...

SJEU: Michael, you are originally from Denmark and we are here in Europe! When did you go to the US?
Michael: I left some time ago in 1991. So there really was no Smooth Jazz at that time. It was in '94 when I toured with Bobby Caldwell and we did a lot of jazzfestivals that I ran into artists in this format and see what was going on and understand the radio stations and so on. When I grew up I was just listening to music, I didn't really distinguished what is was. For me with the saxophone, it was David Sanborn. I never said he was a jazz player or into funk, it was just great music. I never felt that there was a need to put into a category. But I understand for purposes now that there are different kinds, especially traditional and contemporary jazz, that you have to distinguish them.
Steve: And people not coming to the wrong concerts!
SJEU: Do you play often in Denmark?
Michael: The last three times I went back playing, I performed for the Royal Family. But I haven't done one of my shows there. I used to go back there to open for Randy Crawford using her band all the time. And I was in England, Germany, Holland, Austria, all over Europe. I was her saxplayer as well. That was cool!
SJEU: You guys all have to play much, much more in Europe.

SJEU: To conclude this interview, we want to talk about promoting Smooth Jazz in Europe. Do you have any suggestions or tips how to promote it?
Michael: If you look what happened in the US, it starts with radio playing the music. Than you get fans from that and than there come promoters who are willing to take a chance and put up a show. It's business, you have to build and have to expand it.
Steve: And it is also really about passion. You have to bring passionate people together. Amazing things will happen and I believe in that. What you guys are doing is a starting point.
Michael: It seems to me that it started with traditional radio but now it is moving more to internet. And that is a great avenue to promote the music too!
SJEU: And I (Inge) give it to my keyboard students, with easy transcriptions. It's just that people have to hear it. And it is also the word Smooth Jazz, people associate it with elevator music!
Steve: You should call it Rough Jazz!
SJEU: And to conclude we need your sizes because we will give you the SmoothJazz Europe T-Shirts!
Bob: For me, the triple XL!

all pictures by Marijn Eland