Mark Winkler is a ‘Late Bloomin’ Jazzman’

Late Bloomin’ Jazzman, the newest album by vocalist and songwriter Mark Winkler,is an homage to growing older and all the blessings and drawbacks that come with it. The album is Winkler’s 20th CD as a leader. Each of his previous projects has received stellar reviews and consistently topped the jazz charts. Rex Reed has said, “Mark Winkler is a musical marvel and a true original! At last, a writer who sings and a singer who swings!”

Mark Winkler has written eight of the twelve tracks that appear on this album and it those I shall focus on in this review. ’When All the Lights in The Sign Worked’ is the first of the self-penned numbers and I have to say that I rather enjoyed it. The tune has a film noir feel to it, particularly with the muted trumpet of Brian Swartz, and the storytelling is very good. The added saxophone from Bob Sheppard opens up the sound and gives another tonal colour to overall feel of the tune. The album title track is next, and it links nicely in style with the previous track. The lyrics are about America’s (and the worlds?) fascination with younger artists while forgetting about the great masters. Lyrically, and musically, this track works very well with more great trumpet from Mr Swartz and delightful guitar playing from Grant Geissman.

‘In Another Way’ is a very personal song for Mark Winkler telling, as it does, of the loss of his husband and finding love again but in another way. Jamieson Trotter plays delicately at the piano and helps convey the emotion of this tune without it sounding overly melancholy or trite. ‘Bossa Nova Days’ is another soft sound but this time with David Benoit at the piano. This is a track lost in reminiscences and both the sax and flute of Bob Sheppard, and the guitar of Grant Geissman help convey this feeling, matching, as they do, the vocal styling of Mark Winkler. ‘Before You Leave’ hands over the pianist duties to Jon Mayer, who composed the tune, on this song very much influenced by the Great American Songbook. This is a beautiful late-night song with the most delicate brushwork from drummer Christian Euman.

‘Old Enough’ is a tune written from experience and Winkler claims that every word of the tune is true. This is a lightly swinging tune that any listener of certain age will be able to connect with. ‘Marlena’s Memories’ is about a friend of Winkler who has had Alzheimer’s disease for about 11 years. “I’m her Power of Attorney,” says Winkler, “and it’s very sad yet somehow beautiful participating in her journey. I know her family history well, and I got to put what I knew in the song. Once again, this a song only a more mature person could have written.” Nolan Shaheed plays the flugelhorn with a poignancy fitting to the lyrical sentiment of the tune and Jamieson Trotter’s playing on this track also deserves a mention.

The final track considers what would have happened ‘If Gershwin Had Lived’. This is another thoughtful, measured tune with excellent accompaniment from Rich Eames on the piano and Bob Sheppard on sax. Many of the tracks written by Mark Winkler are in a slower tempo befitting the lyrical content and emotional connection with the source material. However, the use of the four covers, played at brisker tempos, mean that the album doesn’t drag or feel overly sentimental.

There is much on this album to admire, and it is refreshing to hear a singer unafraid to confront the ageing process and all that goes with it. Mark Winkler has certainly picked a very good group of musicians to back him, and I will have no hesitation in playing a considerable number of tracks from this album on my hospital radio broadcast ‘Sounds Like Jazz’.

Musicians: David Benoit – piano (1,5,6,8); Jamieson Trotter – piano (3,4,10,11), Hammond B3 (2); Rich Eames – piano (7,12); Jon Mayer – piano (9); John Clayton – bass (1,5,6,8); Gabe Davis – bass; (2,3,4,7,9,10,11,12); Christian Euman – drums (1,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,11); Clayton Cameron – drums (2,9); Grant Geissman – guitar (1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11); Bob Sheppard – saxophone, flute (6,7,12); Brian Swartz – trumpet (3,4,7); Nolan Shaheed – flugelhorn (11); Kevin Winard – percussion (3,6,10)’

Tracklist: 1. It Ain’t Necessarily So. 2. Don’t Be Blue. 3. When All The Lights In The Sign Worked. 4. Late Bloomin’ Jazzman. 5. In Another Way. 6. Bossa Nova Days. 7. Old Devil Moon. 8. I Always Had A Thing For You. 9. Before You Leave. 10. Old Enough. 11. Marlena’s Memories. 12. If Gershwin Had Lived.

Arranged by John Clayton (1), Jamieson Trotter (2,3,10), Rich Eames (7,8,12), David Benoit (8), Eli Brueggemann (4), Michele Brourman (5), Bill Cantos (6), Jon Mayer (9). 

Late Bloomin’ Jazzman is out on Café Pacific Records from Friday, 8th April, 2022

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