(From the November 2015 DownBeat)
Jazz And Other Four Letter Words
CAFÉ PACIFIC 45125
♦♦♦♦ (4 stars)
Whatever happened to West Coast cool? It’s alive and well, judging by the recent output of singer, lyricist and all-around hepcat Mark Winkler. He’s a laid-back song stylist whose swinging approach would not be out of place in the ring-a-ding-ding 1960s, and his latest album, Jazz And Other Four Letter Words, is a gas.
In the tradition of Dave Frishberg and Mose Allison, Winkler is a hip, crafty lyricist with a flexible baritone and dry-martini delivery. His songs have been recorded by artists like Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jane Monheit (he recently wrote lyrics to four songs for her recent duo project with pianist David Benoit).
One of the highlights in this well-chosen set is “Your Cat Plays Piano,” which showcases his off-kilter sense of humor: “The thing I like the most/Is when your cat plays piano/Mostly on the black keys/ And I could swear he’s a jazzer/ ’Cause he will not play the melody…” The title tune is a tongue-in-cheek defense of jazz from its critics, in which he recites the many “four-letter words” associated with it, including “Bird, Monk, Chet, Prez, Ella, Pops, Duke and Getz.” Winkler’s passion for life, love and jazz emerges with some regularity from behind the easygoing hipster pose, including “I Chose The Moon,” a moving tribute to his life partner, and the closer, “Stay Hip,” in which he offers the following sage advice to jazz fans: “Don’t forget the ones who came before/ And the ones before that/ But keep your ears open to the latest hap’nin’ cat.”
Jazz And Other Four Letter Words: My Idea Of A Good Time; I’m Hip; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Your Cat Plays Piano; I Chose The Moon; Have A Good Time; I Wish I Were In Love Again; Jazz And Other Four Letter Words; I Never Went Away; In A New York Minute/The Great City/Autumn In New York; Stay Hip. (46:37)
Personnel: Mark Winkler, Cheryl Bentyne (2, 7), vocals; Jamieson Trotter (1–8, 10), Rich Eames (9, 11), piano; John Clayton (2, 4, 7, 10, 11), Dan Lutz (1, 5, 6, 8, 9), bass; Jeff Hamilton (2, 4, 7, 10, 11), Mike Shapiro (1, 5, 6, 8, 9), drums; Larry Koonse (2, 10, 11), Pat Kelley (3, 5, 6, 9), guitar; Bob Sheppard, saxophone (4, 7); Kirsten Edkins, saxophone (6, 8); Walter Fowler, trumpet (6, 8); Bob McChesney: trombone (6).
Ordering info: markwinklermusic.com