Coming straight out of the Dave Frishberg/Mark Murphy school if you want any comparison, but with his own inimitable and highly original style, singer and lyricist Mark Winkler releases his 14th album to date. This comes a couple of years after his successful duet album with Manhattan Transfer singer Cheryl Bentyne (“West Coast Cool”) and includes five of his extremely witty and imaginative originals and also features a stellar cast of LA-based Jazz musicians.
Mark opens this very entertaining 11-song album with his own “My Idea Of A Good Time”, a wonderful swinger which was arranged by pianist Jamieson Trotter. Cheryl can be heard on a couple of songs: the Dave Frishberg classic “I’m Hip”, forever associated with the much-missed Blossom Dearie. It stays in joyful and upbeat mode here and the two once again gel like a Gin & Tonic. John Clayton is featured with a bass solo here. The other duet is a brilliantly fresh arrangement of the Rodgers & Hart standard “I Wish I Were In Love Again”, arranged by Rich Eames. It’s a surprisingly cool version of the often-heard classic.
Throughout, Mark’s sympathetic and always powerful and clear baritone shines on every track, whether it’s a Gershwin (a cheeky “Nice Work If You Can Get It” with subtle guitar by Pat Kelley) or a Paul Simon (the bluesy “Have A Good Time” with a hot trombone solo by Bob McChesney). But Mark has always sounded best on his own songs (200 or so of his songs have been recorded by a plethora of artists, most recently by Jane Monheit on her album with David Benoit): the lineage from Bob Dorough to Dave Frishberg clearly continues here with the witty and catchy “Your Cat Plays Piano”, with music by Bill Cantos and a tenor sax solo by Bob Sheppard. Here, Mark really epitomizes the cool and adventurous style of his predecessors.
But there is also a sweet and soft side to Mark: he dedicates his “I Chose The Moon” to his partner of 34 years (happy to have met them both early last year in New York), Richard Del Belso. But here as well, Mark stays true to his cool, sometimes blue, late-night intensity on this incredibly beautiful love song. His solid and honest way of interpreting this tribute is really something. The title track is Mark’s tribute to the great jazz heroes like Bird, Monk, Chet, Pres, Duke, Ella, Pops etc. It is destined to become another of his modern day jazz classics. Hilariously cute.
And there is more to explore here: the nicely tempoed Bossa on Sir Richard Rodney Bennett‘s “I Never Went Away” or his medley of three songs dedicated to the most exciting cities of them all: “In A New York Minute/The Great City/Autumn In New York” is a fascinatingly crafted panoply with another cool, albeit brief, guitar solo by Larry Koonse and “Autumn In New York” only hinted at, but stunningly so.
Mark’s album closes out with his own “Stay Hip” where he asks not to forget the ones who came before us – another toe-tapping swinger which really leads me to add the word Mark to the list of Jazz and other four letter words. After all, he says in the final sentence of the liner notes: “Rescue an “older” dog, cat or rabbit today. Dogs and jazz – what’s better?” Gina totally agrees!