Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jazz Detour: Pearl and Winkler, My Current Favorites

Deborah Pearl
Souvenir of You - New Lyrics to Benny Carter Classics
Appearing at Vitello’s
November 3, 2011

Earlier this year Pearl released the CD as a tribute to her friend, the late, great jazz legend Benny Carter. A longtime friend of Carter and his wife Hilma, she has written lyrics to some of his classic instrumentals and created a tribute that is rich, tuneful, and full of his everlasting joie de vivre. I love it because it’s a CD that makes me happy when I listen to it. Two of the songs are digitally mastered so that Pearl is actually able to sing with Carter and his Big Band. Ah, the wonders of technology!

The first is Happy Feet (At The Savoy), an infectious big band swing tune that was originally recorded live for Carter’s Harlem Renaissance album. Now with the addition of Pearl’s clear, bright vocals it is transformed into a vibrant new classic dance tune that finds her trading off sections with Carter and his orchestra. The other is Anniversary Dance, a waltz that plays out like a scene from an old time movie with Pearl conveying the sweetness of the lyric with her mellow rubato musical phrasing. These two cuts alone hit it out of the park, but happily there’s more.

Additional highlights include Wonderland, a lighthearted melody Carter wrote about the breathlessness of love at first sight; Doozy Blues, an up-tempo tune that has Pearl spitting out lyrics with sparkling precision and scatting with sass; and Sail Away With Me, an easy breezy favorite that will take you away to a Caribbean beach at sunset. In her closing track, Souvenir of You, Pearl sums up her feelings about her mentor and friend with the words, “Time takes our verses away/But melodies live on/Forever playing your song/At heaven’s door, and here/A souvenir - of you.” The entire collection is perfection.

You can catch Deborah Pearl live in her Tribute to Benny Carter Show on Thursday, November 3rd at Vitello's Jazz and Supper Club, 4349 Tujunga Ave, Studio City. She will be appearing with The Lou Forestieri Trio and guest artist Don Shelton on saxophone and flute. The show begins at 8:00 pm. For reservations call 818-769-0905. Deborah Pearl Souvenir of You is available on cdBaby, iTunes, Amazon and at

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Mark Winkler

Sweet Spot
Appearing at Vitello's
Saturday, November 19, 2011

This is one hot CD and my latest guilty pleasure. Winkler’s newest collection Sweet Spot is a sleek, sexy musical departure into the land of cool that begins with an ultra-hip version of Like Young featuring not only his own unique vocals, but Bob Sheppard on sax and Eli Brueggemann on piano as well.

His original tune, Catch Me If You Can, though not related to the Broadway musical or film, has an easygoing samba groove that captures the flavor of the 60’s – think James Bond with a Vesper Martini shaken, not stirred, aboard a yacht and you’ve got the idea. Two more of my favorite tracks are his up-tempo riff on the Gershwin brothers’ But Not For Me that they originally wrote for the 1930 musical Girl Crazy, and a groovin' version of On Broadway.

In fact, you may know Winkler as a jazz composer and musician, but in the musical theatre world we know him as a longtime Broadway baby, with musicals like Naked Boys Singing!, Too Old for the Chorus, and Bark! to his credit – plus his jazz noir musical Play it Cool, which recently played the Acorn Theatre in New York and starred Sally Mayes. Included on this CD is a song from that musical, Jazz Is a Special Taste; a seductive melody that lingers like a whisper in an underground club and a lyric that ponders the dangerous reputation of jazz. The heat ramps up by the time he and guest vocalist Barbara Morrison rip into the title track Sweet Spot, a steamy little number that oozes sexy.

There's also a comedic specialty number, Somewhere in Brazil, that gets both a west coast and east coast treatment. In it a mediocre jazz singer sings of the perils of playing small-time clubs in Encino while dreaming of being in Rio. Little does he know that the keyboard player has his own daydream happening as well.

From top to bottom, Sweet Spot is an irresistibly sexy CD that satisfies with each track. I predict it will become your new guilty pleasure too.    

Mark Winkler will be appearing on Saturday, November 19th at Vitello's Jazz and Supper Club, 4349 Tujunga Ave, Studio City, along with Stu Elster on piano, Tim Emmons on bass, Peter Buck on drums, and Ann Patterson on saxophone. The show begins at 8:00 pm. For reservations call 818-769-0905. Mark Winkler’s Sweet Spot is available on cdBaby, iTunes, Amazon and at

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