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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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MARK WINKLER

Sweet Spot

Café Pacific CPCD 1250

 

 


1. Like Young
2. Catch Me If You Can
3. But Not For Me
4. Sweet Spot
5. This Side of Loving
6. Somewhere in Brazil (West Coast)
7. After Hours
8. On Broadway
9. Jazz is a Special Taste
10. Some Other Sunset
11. Their Hearts Were Full of Spring
12. Bonus Track: Somewhere in Brazil (East Coast)

Mark Winkler - Vocals
Barbara Morrison - Guest Vocals
Eli Brueggemann, Billy Childs - Pianos
Tim Emmons - Bass
Steve Barnes, Greg Hutchinson - Drums
Bob Sheppard - Sax, flute
Kim Richmond - Sax
Grant Geissman, Anthony Wilson - Guitars
Nolan Shaheed - Trumpet, flugelhorn
Luis Conte - Percussion

 

Male jazz singers are few and far between - and good ones are fewer and farther between. Mark Winkler would probably classify himself as a "hip" or "cool" vocalist but, even to be a hip singer, you need to be audible - and not all the lyrics here are clear enough. At times he certainly phrases the songs in a "hip" manner, coming close to a singer like (say) Al Jarreau, and he has the benefit of being backed by some first-rate musicians, who vary from track to track.

The first song - the seldom-heard Like Young - illustrates some of Mark's strengths as well as weaknesses. Not all the words are distinct - or in tune - but Mark delivers the song with conviction and style. The groovy atmosphere is augmented by solos from saxist Bob Sheppard and pianist Eli Brueggemann. Catch Me If You Can is a cheerful bossa nova with a stimulating lilt.

But Not For Me includes a vocalese solo written by Georgie Fame and based on a solo by Chet Baker but occasionally wandering out-of-tune in Mark Winkler's hands. Barbara Morrison comes in as second vocalist on the seductively bluesy title-track, with soulful guitar from Grant Geissman.

By this point in the album, I had come to the conclusion that Mark is not a bad singer but not an exceptional one. - and the same applies to the rest of the CD, which is pleasant without being momentous. Winkler is the sort of singer who would go down well in a cabaret where the punters are well warmedsup with food and drink. In fact his talents are rather well summed up by Somewhere in Brazil, in which a singer complains of being ignored or treated as background music, while his pianist (played by Eli Brueggemann) tells the truth about his failings. There are some illuminating moments, as in On Broadway, which uses the Killer Joe riff as a backing, or Mark's lyrics set to David Benoit's Some Other Sunset with evocative guitar and percussion plus strong double bass.

The final Somewhere in Brazil is listed as a "bonus track" even though it is just a reprise of track 6 with a few different words. You may think that calling something a "bonus track" on a CD which lasts less than 50 minutes is stretching things a bit. In fact I am quite surprised to find that this is Mark's eleventh album and that he is said to have composed more than 150 songs for the likes of Liza Minelli and Randy Crawford , which suggests that he has a good following. I won't mind hearing more of his work but I shan't hold my breath with anticipation.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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