West Coast Cool
Ten years ago, a JazzTimes review of Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup inspired Winkler to write “Cool,” a snappy salute to hipster sangfroid that, performed in duet with the Manhattan Transfer’s Cheryl Bentyne, appeared on his 2009 release, Till I Get It Right. From that song was born a breezy nightclub act, devoted to various musicians who defined the laidback California sound of the ’50s and toured by Winkler and Bentyne across North America.
Now they’ve recreated an hour’s worth of that show in the studio, backed by an appropriately chill quartet comprising pianist Rich Eames (who also wrote most of the arrangements), bassist Tim Emmons, drummer Dave Tull and saxophonist-flutist Bob Sheppard, plus various guests including guitarist Anthony Wilson and trumpeter Nolan Shaheed.
The pair kicks off with a loose, twilit “Take Five” melded with Winkler’s own retro “Drinks on the Patio.” Across four tracks, Bentyne pays winning tribute to the era’s foremost canaries: Julie London, June Christy, Chris Connor and Anita O’Day. Winkler renews his affection for Troup with “Lemon Twist,” “Hungry Man” and “Girl Talk” (nicely entwined with Bentyne’s spare, melancholy “Talk of the Town”), and nods to Chet Baker with a peppy “Let’s Get Lost.” But it is their shared efforts—particularly the title track, with Winkler’s hipster-list lyric married to Neal Hefti’s “Li’l Darlin’”—that satisfy most, bottling the effervescence of their simpatico rapport. As a bonus, rather than re-record “Cool” in the studio they’ve tacked on a sparkling live version.