When '70s soul man Bobby Caldwell (“What You Won't Do for Love“) and Grammy-winning producer Jack Splash (Cee-Lo Green, Kendrick Lamar) initially decided to work together, Splash was pretty nervous. “But as our group name suggests,” Splash says, “it ended up kind of like me working with my cool ass uncle.”
It all started when Splash was doing a series of interviews about his funk band PlantLife. During the interviews he kept mentioning his musical heroes, such as Sly Stone, Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Marvin Gaye … and Bobby Caldwell.
“I guess Bobby and his wife kept hearing about this strange dude who kept saying he loved Bobby,” Splash explains via email. “So they looked me up, checked out some of the stuff I had produced for Cee-Lo, John Legend, Alicia Keys, etc., and then they reached out to me on Facebook.”
At first, Splash didn't reply to his future partner in the retro-soul duo Cool Uncle. “I'm pretty shy with that stuff so I didn't even respond for a while because I thought it was some weird prank. My assistant finally reached out to them and found out that it was actually Mary Caldwell, Bobby's wife.
“So we set up a meeting in Miami,” Splash continues. “Bobby and I drank some whiskey, talked music, and decided we might just have to shake up the game and put our collective weirdness together for some soul/funk magic.”
Bridging the generation gap between the two was less of an issue that one might expect. “Bobby is not your average sexagenarian — which might have to be the the title of our next album, by the way,” Splash says. “He's just as wild as any of my friends. His youthfulness when it comes to the music is so inspiring.”
Splash also notes that he and Bobby had no trouble agreeing on the other artists that should be featured on the album. “Once Bobby and I started wrapping our heads around this first album, I realized that it would be nice to bring in a few of our musical friends and peers who have a similar 'open-mindedness' as we do,” Splash notes. “Everyone on the album, from Cee-Lo to Jessie Ware, Mayer Hawthorne … we all feel like music is supposed to be timeless and ageless.
“We wanted the artists to fit the songs perfectly,” Splash adds. “I mean the very second we wrote 'Mercy,' both Bobby and I were like, 'Oh man, Cee Lo would sound ridiculous on this!' There are tons of other people we want to work with for the next album too, but we didn't want to overdo it on this first record. I think we found a really nice balance.”
For Splash, the recording process and conversations he had with Caldwell were just as special as the finished product, if not more so. He recalls, for example, explaining to Caldwell his impact on hip-hop. Caldwell's 1980 song “Open Your Eyes” was sampled by late producer J. Dilla for Common's “The Light” in 2000, re-introducing Caldwell's music to a whole new generation of fans — a phenomenon Caldwell was unaware of.
“I remember Common performing 'The Light' and I'm pretty sure Questlove was DJing for him,” Splash remembers, ” And before they would drop the actual song, 'The Light,' Questlove would play Bobby's original version of 'Open Your Eyes' … and the crowd would just go crazy.
“The funny thing about all this is,” Splash continues, “is that when I kept telling Bobby about Dilla, he thought I was saying Dylan. He thought I was talking about Bob Dylan! But that was the beauty of my and Bobby's friendship and musical partnership. I'll teach him about Dilla and he'll teach me about Sinatra.”
Splash hopes that not only will audiences enjoy this album, but also that it will serve as a reminder that when it comes to creativity, age is just a number. “This first album is just a small taste of what Bobby and I plan on doing,” he says. “I want these Cool Uncle albums to help strengthen Bobby's incredible legacy. People have already been reacting pretty strongly to the first few songs, so I'm so excited for them to just sit back and vibe out to the whole album. I hope it makes them as happy as it makes Bobby and me.”