Since breaking into the smooth-jazz scene nine years ago with her bright melodies and upbeat songs, Joyce Cooling has consistently crafted groove-based guitar tunes that recall contemporaries such as Larry Carlton while delivering shout-outs to legends like Wes Montgomery. But Cooling has always built musical ideas around her own central and sunny vibe—there’s a reason why she named her first two CDs Playing It Cool and Keeping It Cool.
Giving a CD a title as metaphoric as Revolving Door—connoting the struggles she’s witnessed first-hand with her brother’s schizophrenia—might seem questionable for a smooth-jazz artist. Although this is Cooling’s most personal CD, it’s far from a downer focusing on mental illness. Instead, the tunes speak of colorful places and characters Joyce and co-writer Jay Wagner have encountered during their long musical relationship. “Come and Get It,” “At the Modern” and “Mildred’s Attraction” are leading examples of Cooling’s signature sound—cool gems with peppy and forward-moving rhythms. Two tracks feature Cooling’s exquisite vocalese skill: “Jesse’s Bench,” inspired by a talented street musician in her neighborhood who recently passed away and the languid, tropical “Cool of the Night.” Less successful are the vocal tunes that regretfully don’t convey a sense of universality, and whose frequent triteness breaks the continuity of the CD.
A portion of the proceeds from sales of Revolving Door will go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.