Mark Winkler wanted another bite of the apple, and Bobby Troup’s zesty book of rhythm patter, swooning ballads, and novelty numbers provides plenty of creative nourishment. His second album devoted to the songs of the jazz-steeped pianist, songwriter, singer, and actor, I’m With You offers a welcome reminder of Troup’s sturdy book. Winkler’s 2003 album Sings Bobby Troup covered some of the same ground (the albums share four songs). Considering Troup’s voluminous oeuvre and the obscurity that has befallen several of his early hits, some of the repetition seems unnecessary, but each song on I’m With You gets a thoughtful arrangement that brings out its particular character.
A prolific Los Angeles songwriter and singer with rhythmically assured phrasing and a warm, affable tone, Winkler effectively highlights the strengths of his fellow tunesmith. He also makes excellent use of an enviable cast of L.A. players. Whenever an instrumentalist stands out, a glance at the credits reveals why. Ah, that’s Rickey Woodard’s tasty tenor sax on Tamir Hendelman’s briskly swinging arrangement of Troup’s lovely “Please Belong to Me,” and Anthony Wilson’s lustrous guitar on his own chart of the swooning “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring.”
Troup’s songs aren’t the deepest end of the jazz/pop repertoire, but they’re consistently refreshing, heartfelt, or just plain fun, like “Triskaidekaphobia,” an ode to the fear of the number 13, and the jivey tale of Goldilocks, “Three Bears.” Another standout is the duet rendition of “It Happened Once Before,” a ballad with clunky lyric and gorgeous melody rendered (and arranged) with sublime grace by pianist Jon Mayer, a neglected master who made his recording debut in 1957 with Jackie McLean. But the bulk of the album features a quartet led by pianist/arranger Rich Eames, and whether swinging on “Route 66” or navigating the novelty number “Snooty Little Cutie,” Winkler is in deft hands.
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