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Joyce Cooling: Revolving Door

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.

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