For Jeff Jacobs, long-time Baldwin Piano artist and accomplished session musician and producer, turning 46 came with some choices. After a long and celebrated 20-year run as the keyboard player with Foreigner and Billy Joel, among others, Jacobs found himself at a crossroads.
“After being in Foreigner for all those years, I decided it was time to make my own future,” Jacobs says.
Since releasing his critically acclaimed debut CD, All Blue To Me, in 2005, Jacobs’ multiple talents have been in constant demand. Most recently, Jacobs has been busy producing blues/hip-hop artist Wayne Baker Brooks, son of legendary blues guitarist Lonnie Brooks, and was instrumental in producing the Chicago Blues Fest After Party with headliners Brooks, his son Wayne, Pinetop Perkins, Eddy Clearwater, and Lil’ Ed. The event was held June 5 at the House of Blues during the annual Chicago Blues Festival.
His work with Wayne Baker Brooks is garnering rave reviews, and also putting the Jacobs name on top of many people’s short list of hot producers. For Jacobs, it’s simply a continuation of his love of music.
“Wayne [Brooks] mixes traditional blues with hip hop, and it’s a sound that’s turning a lot of heads,” Jacobs said. “And it’s great being a part of the Chicago blues scene right now and marrying it to the hip hop guys. It sort of lets them know where it all comes from.”
The collaboration with Brooks has also landed Jacobs in the camp of up and coming artist Matt Morris, who just hired Jacobs as his musical director for his upcoming tour. Morris is a childhood friend of Justin Timberlake’s, having met his current collaborator and producer during their mutual stint on the new Mickey Mouse Club. Morris signed with Timberlake’s new label, Tennman Records, in May 2007, and is busy preparing for the release of his debut CD. Jacobs was called upon to be Morris’ musical director for his two recent shows at Bonnaroo, and expects to occupy the same role when Morris hits the road to promote his upcoming CD.
“The Bonnaroo shows were the first time he’s ever played with a band, and that was very exciting,” Jacobs said. “The shows received some excellent reviews, so I’m hoping to be a part of the tour he’s got coming up. Charlie Sexton [former Bob Dylan guitarist and renowned session player] played guitar for him at Bonnaroo and also produced the record, so he’s got some pretty good people behind him.”
For the majority of Jacobs’ 25 years in the industry, Baldwin has been his piano of choice. His first exposure to Baldwin came in the late 1980s shortly after he was asked to join Billy Joel’s band, where he ended up recording two albums, Stormfront and River of Dreams, and toured the world as Joel’s primary keyboard player. The Stormfront album was produced by Foreigner’s Mick Jones, who also noticed Jacob’s brilliant keyboard skills. By 1993, Jacobs had become a full-time member of Foreigner, and has since enjoyed great success as both a writer and producer for such artists as Julian Lennon, Laura Brannigan, Phil Ramone, and Paul Simon.
“I went to the Baldwin warehouse in New York City one day with Billy Joel and saw all those vintage Baldwin grand pianos they have up there, and I was hooked,” Jacobs said. “Billy got to pick one out for his use on stage and it was just amazing. It’s not about electronics or anything else. It’s all about the quality of the instrument, and Baldwin has always been about quality.”
Jacobs and Baldwin may also be teaming up to showcase some new Baldwin products set to hit the market soon. Those new product seminars may also double as traveling piano clinics, with the possibility of adding a “Baldwin touring band,” which is something Jacobs would love to be a part of.
“Baldwin has always been very good to me,” Jacobs said. “A lot of musicans seek out endorsements to see what they can get for free, but with pianos it’s different. Hell, I’m still waiting to buy a big enough house so I can put a big 9 ft. Baldwin grand piano in it.”