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Mark Winkler: Late Bloomin’ Jazzman (Café Pacific)

A review of the singer/composer's 20th release as a leader

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Mark Winkler: Late Bloomin’ Jazzman (Café Pacific)
The cover of Late Bloomin’ Jazzman by Mark Winkler

The title Late Bloomin’ Jazzman could be taken as the prolific, award-winning singer/composer’s mini-autobiography or as an homage to late-bloomin’ jazzmen (and women) in general. The album, the 60-something Winkler’s 20th as a leader, includes eight original compositions and four standards—“Old Devil Moon” and the warhorse “It Ain’t Necessarily So” among them—each focusing on his vocal elasticity, keen sense of phrasing, and smart choices. The original material reveals new lyrical pearls with each fresh listen; the covers open up the familiar in new ways. There’s a lot to like here.

Winkler employs four different groups of musicians to flesh out the material. The title track (and album centerpiece) kicks in with a brief but robust solo bassline from Gabe Davis, soon joined by pianist Jamieson Trotter, guitarist Grant Geissman, and drummer Christian Euman. The song, with music by Eli Brueggemann and lyrics by Winkler, is one that any aging artist should be proud to adopt as an anthem: “Watching you I know the world is wrong,” Winkler half-sings, half-boasts, “so wrong/’Cause you’re playing stronger, the longer in the tooth.” Take that, punks!

“If Gershwin Had Lived,” the album-ending ballad, features a more traditional, bold vocal performance. Davis, Euman, and Geissman return, joined now by pianist Rick Eames, whose sweeping melodic line dominates. Winkler, as the title suggests, riffs on a classic what-if: “Now, he wrote a lot of great songs, and I’m grateful for that,” he sings, “but his star burned out much too soon/And sometimes I get to thinking ’bout the things he left undone, and I sure would’ve loved one more tune.”

We all would have. But as long as there are still conscious, creative songwriters such as Mark Winkler to do the job, we’re in good hands.

Learn more about Late Bloomin’ Jazzman at Amazon and Apple Music!

Mark Winkler Plays It Cool

Jeff Tamarkin

Jeff Tamarkin on social media

Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.