The number three is often referred to as a divine and mystical number. Pythagoras called it the ‘perfect’ number. Chart-topping Contemporary Jazz pianists Bob Baldwin, Gail Jhonson and Phil Davis (The 3 Keys), harness the wisdom of three on their harmonious and splendid piano expedition, We 3 Keys, to be released on Shanachie Entertainment January 20, 2023. The recording celebrates the magic of keyboards and is inspired by some of the trio’s keyboard/piano influences including George Duke, Bernard Wright, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Eliane Elias and Bernie Worrell, among others. There is an eclectic mix of keyboard sounds including Moog synths, pianos, the Fender Rhodes, organ, keyboard bass, and other various synthesizers.
At the core of We 3 Keysis the deep respect and mutual admiration that Baldwin, Jhonson and Davis have for one another. Jhonson explains how the anticipated project evolved. “Phil and I were performing with Grammy-winning guitarist Norman Brown in GA, and we met up with Bob Baldwin backstage. Naturally, I wanted a photo of the three of us together since it is rare for keyboard players to get the chance to hang out. We were joking and laughing and as we took the shot I said, ‘we should be a group!’” Baldwin adds, “The piano like all instruments is such a personal instrument. It was cool and refreshing to see a different spin on the same instrument from all our different perspectives. This project is really to showcase the piano, which is the backbone for Contemporary and Smooth Jazz.”
The sumptuous twelve-track We 3 Keys showcases mostly originals while illuminating each of the pianist’s compositional prowess and virtuosity. There are tributes to pianists George Duke and Bernard Wright, as well as a gorgeous reworking of the Aldir Blanc, Ivan Lins and Vitor Martins composition “Camaleão,” previously recorded by the likes of the aforementioned Lins, Grover Washington Jr., and Dionne Warwick. Phil Davis hopes the project will touch their fans. “There is a real need to reach people through music right now. We have collectively lost a lot of people due to the pandemic (family, friends, musicians, etc.) and this has created a shift in creative people to produce more music,” he reflects. “Hopefully, this music will touch and heal people like it helped us while working on this project.” One might wonder how you even begin to fuse three distinct voices and personalities on the same instrument. “It was a challenge to unite the complete cosmos of notes, tonal effects and rhythms…it wasn’t long before we found out each other’s favorite piano/keyboard stations,” recalls Gail. Phil adds, “On most of the project, you will hear one of us on piano, another on Rhodes, one on electric synth sounds and sometimes we added a little organ in as well.” The glue in The 3 Keys is the openness that each musician had to let the album unfold organically. “Working with Phil and Gail was a great experience, and in the process, we all learned something about ourselves and each other,” shares Bob Baldwin.