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Mark Winkler: Jazz and Other Four Letter Words

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Last time we heard from Mark Winkler, in 2013, was with a studio version of West Coast Cool, the snappy, midcentury-styled nightclub act that he and the Manhattan Transfer’s Cheryl Bentyne toured across North America. It seems, however, that Winkler isn’t entirely finished with his backward glancing. While returning here to his usual blending of standards and originals, he includes another throwback with Bentyne, their spirited take on “I’m Hip.”

Dave Frishberg’s winking nod to self-prescribed coolness serves as counterpoint to “Stay Hip,” one of five new compositions. Further evidence that Winkler is one of the sharpest songwriters around, the breezy love song doubles as a clever reminder that new jazz champions are always on the horizon. It’s also an ideal companion to the title track, wherein Winkler tallies the four-letter greats: Ella, Chet, Prez, Bird, Monk, Pops, etc. Cutest among the fresh material is the playful “Your Cat Plays Piano.” Most personal is “I Chose the Moon,” a lovely billet-doux to his partner of 34 years.

Winkler’s choice of covers is, as always, equally beguiling, a creamy “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and lithe reading of Paul Simon’s “Have a Good Time” balanced by a sassy “I Wish I Were in Love Again” (with Bentyne) and an artfully diverse medley of New York songs. It all adds up to proof that the jazz lexicon includes one venerable four-letter sobriquet his title tune omitted: Wink.

Originally Published