West coast jazz singer and lyricist Mark Winkler just released “The Rules Don’t Apply”, his follow-up album to the critically-acclaimed 2022 album “Late Bloomin’ Jazzman”. That’s indeed what he is now. It seems that his albums are getting better with each new release. He has always been a vocalist who comes up with the most interesting and eclectic repertoire for his albums and this is actually the fifth album to be reviewed on these pages. Being a prolific songwriter himself (having worked with Dianne Reeves, Wayne Shorter, David Benoit, Joe Sample and so many more), Mark has written the lyrics for eight of the album’s 13 songs. He starts out with a wonderful, breezy and lightly flowing dedication to Los Angeles: on “Sunday In LA”, the mood is exquisitely positive, underscored by sexy backing vocals. I just have one objection: no Chardonnay! Riesling instead please.
The same profound delight is expressed on “The Joy Of Singing”. Mark’s swinging voice has never sounded better. And has there ever been a cover version of Donald Fagen’s “I.G.Y.”? Here, Mark addresses the tune with a smooth nonchalance. The guitar at the beginning sounds like it comes out of a Western movie. What a swell arrangement. His typical sly humor comes to the fore on the album’s title track, written by Eddie Arkin and Lorraine Feather. His storytelling is one of a kind. I also think that the sequence on the album is top-notch. Just when I thought if there is a break in terms of tempo and exuberance, Mark comes up with Paul Simon’s “Something So Right” (from his 1973 LP “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon”). Subdued and affectionate.
Mark has worked with four different arrangers on the album and with a stellar cast of musicians, among them Clayton Cameron, Grant Geissman, John Beasley, Rich Eames, Bob Sheppard, and Scott Whitfield. There is a wonderful swing-era type dedication to the prestigious Capitol Records Studio with references to Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra on “If These Walls Could Talk (They’d Sing)”. More swinging jazz with a great clarinet courtesy of Bob Sheppard abounds on “Jazz Swings” and Mark’s dedication to this art form graces the album closer “Here’s To Jazz”. In between, more covers: a spirited and agile “Got To Get You Into My Life” and Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come” featuring Errol Rhoden on tuba, just announced as musical instrument of the year over here in Germany, with a vociferous version. Do I have a favorite? Yes. “Lessons I’ve Learned” is one of the strongest songs he has ever written (in tandem with a fantastic arrangement). Dealing with age and the experience and insight which come along with it, Mark describes his résumé when he sings “I’ve Lived More Of This Life Than I Have Left Of This Life But I Keep Looking Ahead To The Future”. And more: “I Can Tell If Someone’s Crazy Within Seconds Of Meeting Them”. I hear you Mark!