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July/August 2004

Joyce Cooling
This Girl's Got to Play
EMI Distribution

Guitarist Joyce Cooling's brand of smooth jazz is informed by her eclectic tastes and powered by her crisp, dexterous playing, and on This Girl's Got to Play (Narada), she balances accessibility and more challenging elements. On "Camelback," Cooling layers a repetitive melody pattern over an idiosyncratic rhythm and somehow comes up with something utterly infectious. The playful "Green Impala" alternates between two selves: one spiky and spacious, the other much smoother, and Nelson Braxton of the Braxton Brothers provides funky bass on "Toast & Jam." "The Wizard" opens as a high-spirited, horn-punctuated workout, then suddenly goes into a Brazilian break, which Cooling uses as a springboard for some nimble improvising before returning to the original theme.

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Sheryl Schindler

Joyce Cooling

The dusky, blues-tinged "No More Blues" features Cooling on lead vocals, and while her range is a bit limited, her voice has a pleasant, melodic quality that fits the song nicely. Cooling takes lead vocals again on the good-natured, quasi-autobiographical title track, which describes her lifelong desire to play music. This Girl's Got to Play, and we're glad she does.

Originally published in July/August 2004
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