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Music Review: Mark Winkler – Sweet Spot

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Mark Winkler is one of those jazz artists always good for a smile or two. His Till I Get It Right was a humorous and witty compilation of pieces and his newest, Sweet Spot, lovingly expands on that foundation.

Winkler’s easygoing style is the perfect fit for the music of Sweet Spot. He talks of “gigs from hell” and tackles Gershwin, throwing in an original tune from his Play It Cool musical as well. More than anything, though, Winkler sings with conclusive humanity, exposing in every phrase a desire to smile and enjoy the art of living to its fullest.

Winkler’s writing is magical stuff, of course. He’s penned dozens of songs for the likes of Claire Martin, Lea Salonga, Liza Minnelli, Dianne Reeves, and Randy Crawford. His intonation is similar to that of Randy Newman, with heart and passion coming through in every turn of phrase.

Winkler’s baritone gets to work with “Like Young.” There’s a thick groove at work here and the West Coast cool jazz singer delves right in, approaching the lyrics by pulling back ever so slightly. Eli Brueggemann tickles the ivories and Bob Sheppard’s tenor saxophone helps in further furnishing the pace.

The Gershwin classic “But Not For Me,” as arranged by Brueggemann, is inspired by Georgie Fame’s version. It opens with a spark of sensitivity, guided by Steve Barnes’ brushes, and a gentle spring pushes it through with bright touches of piano.

Humour is the order of the day with “Somewhere in Brazil (West Coast)” and its cousin “Somewhere in Brazil (East Coast).” Both cuts discuss “gigs from hell,” with Winkler talking about taking his mind on a trip to Rio when he’s got to sing in front of a less-than-appreciative crowd. Ten extra points for rhyming “Secaucus” with “raucous.”

The title track is a sly duet featuring veteran songstress Barbara Morrison. It has more than a few touches of the blues and gets an extra boost from Brueggemann’s turn on the Hammond B3 organ.

With natural fits (“On Broadway”) and some old favourites (“Some Other Sunset”), Winkler’s Sweet Spot is a highly entertaining, engaging record. West Coast cool done right, this is a perfect album for cruising around with the top down or enjoying a few drinks – hold the salad.

 

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