Bobby Caldwell
“An Evening of Love Songs” at the Ritz Carlton
By Jonathan Widran

What better way for smooth jazz audiences to celebrate Valentine’s Day than sharing it with a recent newlywed who also happens to be one of the world’s most beloved romantic singers and performers? Bobby Caldwell will still be in the honeymoon phase of his marriage when he performs several concerts appropriately billed as “An Evening of Love Songs” this month. This tour coincides not only with the release of his new CD and freshness of his recent wedding vows, but Caldwell is headlining the first of a new four-concert jazz series, KKSF Concerts on the Coast, with two shows at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Calif., on Feb. 13.

Approaching three months of marital bliss, Caldwell won’t divulge the name of his new bride, but describes his third wife as a “wonderful woman who is a great partner.”

Funny how songwriting can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. When he says, “For both of us, this is the last time, it feels very right,” he’s all but echoing lyrics he wrote on the 1986 No. 1 Peter Cetera/Amy Grant hit “The Next Time I Fall.” Or the Al Jarreau classic “All or Nothing at All,” or Boz Scaggs’ “Heart of Mine.” His fans may clamor for some of the Sinatra-era material he recorded on his later ’90s albums Blue Condition and Come Rain or Come Shine , as well as his most enduring pop hit, 1979’s blue-eyed-soul classic “What You Won’t Do For Love.” This Caldwell staple has been recorded or sampled by more than 100 artists, including a rendition by Boyz II Men on their recent comeback album.

He’ll also be debuting some of the 13 songs from his brand-new recording Perfect Island Nights, which marks his first all-R&B/pop project since 1995’s Soul Survivor. “I really enjoyed making the two collections of standards and touring that material for years with big bands and no backup singers, but I felt it was the right time to return to my singer/songwriter roots,” he says during a telephone interview from his New Jersey home. “I wanted to pick up where I left off, and I had a lot of inspiration, which made writing exciting again. Plus, there was some new electronic studio gear to entertain me, as well as new library sounds––bells and whistles, so to speak.

“There are always so many new angles to explore when it comes to doing love songs,” Caldwell adds. “The key is appealing to the sensibilities of people and the many things they go through in life. We’ve all experienced unrequited love, and know the joy and torment. I’ve been successful in coming up with things people can relate to. On the new album, I love ‘In the Afterlife,’ which somewhat describes a relationship as an arduous journey, but with a different, slightly more aggressive flavor than I have worked with in the past. It’ll be the second single after the duet I’m doing with Deniece Williams on ‘Where is the Love?’ I give an island feel to ‘Our Day Will Come’ and even do an English translation of an old favorite of mine, ‘Sukiyaki.’”

Considering himself a consummate perfectionist, Caldwell admits that the album he’s releasing is actually his second—and much more creatively successful––attempt to do another pop record since his greatest hits anthology Time and Again came out in 2001. He didn’t feel his original tracks matched the kind of songs appreciated by his longtime fans, nor did they reflect the changes that have occurred in the smooth jazz format over the years.

Then there were the personal emotional traumas. While working on the album he eventually scrapped, his mother was slowly dying and his non-studio time was consumed with daily hospital visits. Shortly after she passed away, 9/11 happened. At the same time, he was doing his best to co-parent his twin daughters (now age 12) with his ex-wife.

“After all that, and an overall dissatisfaction with what I had recorded, I felt I had to start all over again, and got the ball rolling in March 2002,” Caldwell says. “Listening to what I am releasing now, I’m so glad I did. Ironically, though, I really never took any of the outside emotional baggage with me into the studio or on stage. That’s part of being a professional entertainer, getting on stage and leaving the emotional horrors at home. In the U.S. and Asia, I have been averaging about 75 shows a year, enough to have a lot of time off to spend with my daughters. I’m happy my personal life is on the upswing again, and I can share that also with my fans. You can’t enjoy the joy unless you’ve known the pain.”

The overwhelming success Caldwell has had performing standards led to two surprising and exciting new directions in his constantly evolving career. From 1998 through 2000, he played Frank Sinatra, his idol, in the David Cassidy/ Don Reo theatrical production “The Rat Pack is Back” at Las Vegas’ now-razed Desert Inn. The long running show was a word-for-word, song-for-song reproduction of the incredible ’50s and ’60s performances by Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Caldwell’s renditions of standards from that era have led him to become a powerful presence in numerous recent films as well. His “Beyond the Sea” was chosen by actor/director Joe Mantegna as the opening theme for his directorial debut, Lakeboat . Mantegna also asked the singer to compose the original piece “(Oh, Boy!) You’ve Got it Made” as the closing theme. “Luck be a Lady” was featured in the Vegas-themed “The Cooler,” and his songs have also appeared in My First Mister (starring Albert Brooks), Hearts in Atlantis (starring Anthony Hopkins), Simone (starring Al Pacino) and, most recently, The Perfect Man (starring Hilary Duff).

“I’ve been really fortunate that my fans have come along for this ride, even though I’m sure many are glad I’m back to my old format again with the new album,” he says. “Let’s face it, though. Nobody else is Sinatra. I have studied him, his phrasing, his performances, to the point of stupidity, and I’ve learned it’s all about emoting and living the song. I’ve done well in films with that material because the Sinatra family won’t let anyone touch his original recordings for less than $250,000 a pop. I come a lot cheaper. But I love it. I’ve really had the opportunity to keep reinventing myself. I keep trying to apply this concept to my cooking, and I’ve really come a long way as a chef. My wife and I do a lot of entertaining, and I have a blast making all sorts of dishes.”

Caldwell, who maintains a house in Vegas but currently lives out in the country with his wife and her 12-year-old daughter, attributes his longevity to two key elements—giving record buyers their money’s worth on every album, and developing his skills as an all-around entertainer. “I pride myself on the way I’ve been able to evolve and adapt to different settings, whether it’s the big-band orchestra or my own ensemble with a few horns,” he says.

“It’s really a matter of ingratiating myself to an audience by engaging them in both music and humor, much like Patti Austin does. It’s about being able to get up there and expose myself, which is a marked difference from my tendency to be a recluse in my private life. I’m more comfortable on stage than in the recording studio or standing and waiting for a movie! The anti-introvert, I suppose.

“I want the audience to see who I am and feel they can approach me. I spend a lot of time getting to know my fans, both in person and reading these incredible e-mails, which constantly remind me of the ability music has to touch people’s lives. Bonding with them is great. I love the intimacy and immediacy of the interaction I have with them, both on stage and off. That’s really the best part of the whole journey.”

Bobby Caldwell is scheduled to perform the following Valentine’s Day “An Evening of Love Songs” concerts:

  • Feb. 11, 8pm, at 4th & B, 345 B St., San Diego, Calif., (619) 231-4343;
  • Feb. 12, 8pm, at Tower Theatre, 815 E. Olive Ave., Fresno, Calif., (559) 485-9050;
  • and two shows on Feb. 13, 3 & 7:30pm, at the Ritz-Carlton, One Miramontes Point Road, Half Moon Bay, Calif., (650) 712-7000.

For additional information on all of these shows, log on to www.jazzconcerts.com.

Discography:
1978
Bobby Caldwell
Sin-Drome
1980 Cat In The Hat Sin-Drome
1982 Carry On Sin-Drome
1983 August Moon Sin-Drome
1989 Heart of Mine Sin-Drome
1991 Stuck On You Sin-Drome
1992 Greatest Hits Sin-Drome
1993 Where Is Love Sin-Drome
1995 Soul Survivor Sin-Drome
1996 Blue Condition Sin-Drome
1998 Timeline
(The Anthology Part 1)
Sin-Drome
1999 Come Rain Or Come Shine Sin-Drome
2001 Time And Again
(The Anthology Part 2)
Sin-Drome
2005 Perfect Island Nights Sin-Drome
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