Five years ago, Mark Winkler teamed with Manhattan Transfer’s Cheryl Bentyne to shape West Coast Cool, a terrific salute to the chill jazz vibe that poured forth from California in the late ’50s and early ’60s. They’ve now shifted their focus to the same era’s New York scene, with equally scintillating results. Manhattan’s then-hippest tunesmiths, Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf, are given the most play, alongside comparably dynamic duos Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, and Broadway stalwarts Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Seven of 11 tracks are duets, including a breezy take on Peggy Lee’s “Things Are Swingin’,” a sizzling, bossa treatment of Bob Dorough’s “Devil May Care,” a laidback reading of Wolf’s playful “You Smell So Good,” and a superb blending of the Wolf/Landesman masterpiece “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” with Francesca Blumenthal’s sagely contemplative “The Lies of Handsome Men.” Most unexpected, and most intriguing, is their saunter through “Walk on the Wild Side,” Lou Reed’s homage to the flamboyant denizens of Andy Warhol’s studio.
Bentyne goes solo for a swinging “The Gentleman Is a Dope” and another Wolf/Landesman gem, “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.” Winkler winningly navigates Dietz and Schwartz’s wonderfully witty “Rhode Island Is Famous for You.” If there’s an outlier, it’s his “I Could Get Used to This,” based on “Bumpin’.” Like the Wes Montgomery original, it feels more coolly left-coast. Still, there’s no faulting the clever lyrics added by Winkler, rich with romantic anticipation.Originally Published