I just found out that I’m #2 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases for Jazz Vocals with my new CD “The Company I Keep”—and I suddenly realized I have reached another destination – the top of this particular measure of achievement—but I got there not with traditional GPs but with a WAZE app. Now what does that mean Mark? (Love talking to myself) It means that at a certain point I realized the major highways and byways of show business weren’t going to take me to where I wanted to go, so I would have get creative and to find the back streets and out of the ways places to get to my end point. My destination is recognition and the ability to sing my songs around the country and have people appreciate it and yes lay down money to hear me.

The highways and byways were closed for a lot of reasons—I’m old, I’m singing Jazz, I was doing a lot of originals in a field where the audience preferred standards. So, I had to be crafty and figure out other ways to get there. The first thing I did was to say to myself, Mark (here I go again) what are you good at? Now as artists, we spend a fair amount of time knowing what we’re not good at (and I’m going to keep that close to my vest) But I thought about this and came up with a few things that were good about me. I had a pleasing voice, it had a nice sound. I wrote really good lyrics and I had developed over the years a nice stage persona and act.

So, what I did is take those three things and double down on all of them—I started taking more singing lessons and really supported my tone, and yoga helped open up my chest cavity. I started teaching lyric writing (which made me a better writer- because I was constantly teaching the craft, and as a teacher had to walk the talk) and finally I analyzed what was good about my show—and just emphasized that. Whatever song I sang was like a little bit more information about me, I learned to spice up my originals with well-chosen songs written by others and I learned how to read a chart and communicate with the band. I found out I could swing—and that I was “cool” who knew???
I also realized that I was playing in LA too many times a year, so I cut down on the shows and I made each show a special occasion. I started regionally and now I’m slowly expanding my base.

And most importantly, when I put out a self-financed CD I spend money on promoting it.

I’ve done all this without the highways and Drivers of the industry—But with a lot of help from my collaborators, musicians, singers, friends and fans. I love my fans—and always try to give them my best. It takes a village to get you there—Show business is a people business and person by person I’ve made people my allies and collaborators.

And…block by block each CD since 2009 has been getting more notice and increased visibility. Reviewers know me, Downbeat has given me Four stars, Magazines do articles on me—and it’s all going to what’s available to me at that moment.

And as I’ve gained confidence I’ve sought out better routes and lanes that I once would have thought I wasn’t fast enough to go in. Sometimes these lanes block my entrance and—voila! Sometimes the lanes let me in.

My career has been challenging, depressing, elating, quizzical- but I stand here at 67 doing better than ever! And I can get to a “yes” 3 minutes faster by just going for it.

Jane Monheit and David Benoit Record 4 of my songs!

Jane Monheit just recorded 4 of my songs (co-written with David Benoit) for a new CD she is doing with David Benoit for Concord Records. I was fortunate enough to go to the sessions in January at United Recorders (the old Ocean Ways studio) and spent two days while she and David did it “old school” with some fantastic musicians including David and John Clayton, Clayton Cameron, Time Weisberg and more! This is a CD of original songs by David Benoit–his other co-writers on the project are Lorraine Feather and Spencer Day. Can’t wait for you to hear it.WinkieFacebook

Billy Childs: “Map to the Treasure”

maptothetreasurePeople in this society sometimes have the mistaken notion that everyone is talented and if they only worked hard could write a great song or orchestrate a great symphony or sing like an accomplished singer– if they only had a chance (quite a few TV shows have been quite successful with this premise)—but my long time on this planet has shown me this not to be the case—Excellence is scarce, in all art forms—so when it appears–—as in Billy Child’s new re-imagining of Laura Nyro’s songs “Map to the Treasure” it should be celebrated.

I’ve known Billy Childs for over 20 years (more as an appreciative listener and associate than as a friend), but I’ve long known of his “excellence” as a pianist and arranger and as an original—from almost the beginning. My relationship with Laura Nyro goes much farther back—over 40 years—and even though I never met her, I feel like she’s family to me. I’m in that club, as Billy calls it, of people who love Laura and recognize her for a genius – there I’ve said it.  My definition of genius is someone who has all the tools of their craft—melody, original lyric writing and heartbreaking vocals and then goes “warp speed” beyond that into their own world. Laura has that in abundance- that’s why I love her so much. Last year I had my own tribute CD to Laura—because I recognized her “excellence.”

So it’s amazing to hear a CD of these two “excellent talents” meeting, and in that meeting creating something beautiful and dark, mystical and smart—occupying a whole noir world of it’s own. Billy’s appreciation for Laura’s music, picked up from his slightly older sisters always respects Laura while deconstructing her songs and amplifying their beauty. Laura would have loved this, because she loved to re imagine her songs too—for example she has at least three different versions of AND WHEN I DIE—in her performance history. So I urge you to purchase ‘Map to the Treasure” turn the lights out, lay back and lose yourself in brilliance and Great Music.

Just yesterday, U2 released their latest CD on iTunes and it was free—enraging me with the further devaluation of “music” in our society. But, maybe this CD –in It’s own sweet brilliance– will surely convince people music has worth and significance. I’d pay a hundred dollars to download Billy Child’s take on Laura Nyro—and I think after listening to it, you would too.

Billy Child:  The making of “Map to the Treasure”

Mark Winkler:  “And When I Die” from “The Laura Nyro Project”

West Coast Cool – The Reviews Are In!

“This is an utterly fantastic jazz vocal date that raises the bar so high; critics will be comparing dates 50 years from now to this one. Killer Stuff.”
Chris Spector – Editor and Publisher Midwest Record

“Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler make the hippest guy/gal vocal duo since Jackie and Roy.”
Joe Lange – Jersey Jazz

“The only thing that disappoints me about WEST COAST COOL is that I’ll never hear it for the first time again. Jump to any place. One of them will be singing great, or both of them. In counterpoint and in harmony. No blemishes.”
Brian Aranault – Record Rack

“WEST COAST COOL is artistry that is beyond words. Wow. Just Wow.”
C. Michael Bailey- All About Jazz

“…The smooth and vibrant vocals of Winkler and Bentyne, who together that that oft-used phrase “dynamic duo” to a much higher level.”
Ed Bianco – All About Jazz

“One of the few male/female duets in vocal jazz that finds both participants working on equal footing. Grammy winner Cheryl Bentyne turns in her finest effort in a decade and Mark Winkler continues to wow audiences and critics alike with his spot on vocal performances which seem to grow by leaps and bounds with each subsequent release.”
Brent Black – Critical Jazz

“Sharper than a shark skin suit lapel, and swinging harder than a hammer thrower, singers Cheryl (Manhattan Transfer) Bentyne and Mark Winkler deliver a red hot tribute to West Coast Cool.”
George W. Harris- Jazz Weekly

“…But it is their shared efforts- particularly the title track, with Winkler’s hipster-list lyric married to Neal Hefti’s “Li’l Darlin’- that satisfy most, bottling the effervescence of their simpatico rapport.”
Chris Loudon- Jazz Times

“Together they are downright irresistible. Not many jazz duos match up like this one.”

Early Praise for West Coast Cool!

Multi-talented Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne team up for a delightfully engaging look back at the “West Coast Cool” sound of the 1950s

westcoastcoolOne of the few male / female duets in vocal jazz that finds both participants working on equal footing. Grammy winner Cheryl Bentyne turns in her finest effort in a decade and Mark Winkler continues to wow audiences and critics alike with his spot on vocal performances which seem to grow by leaps and bounds with each subsequent release. Rich Eames handles the majority of the arrangements including “Let’s Get Lost” and a masterful medley in “Route 66 / Alright, Okay, You Win / Straighten Up And Fly Right.” Bentyne and Winkler have that rare chemistry that allows for the connectivity with an audience to be believable and delightfully entertaining. The danger in this type of release is predictability and we find it here in spades, but in a good way. The worst thing that could happen to tunes such as “This Could Be The Start Of Something Big” and “Lemon Twist” would be attempting to tweak these tunes too much. Never mess with a good melody. The intangibles pushing this release over the top and include appearances by saxophone ace Bob Sheppard along with arrangements from all star pianist Tamir Hendelman on the Bobby Troup tune “Hungry Man.” Continue reading

IROM: Mark Winkler & Dolores Scozzesi at Vitello’s

Live Music: Mark Winkler and Dolores Scozzesi at Vitello’s
By Don Heckman

MarkDoloresSingers Mark Winkler and Dolores Scozzesi were the headliners at Vitello’s Friday night. And that was good news, since both are among L.A.’s most appealing jazz-oriented singers. But the evening promised even more with a sub-headline announcing that they would be singing songs by “Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman: The Great Singer/Songwriters of the ‘70s.”

An intriguing idea. The singer/songwriter era – of both the ‘60s and the ‘70s – was one of the most significant, if occasionally underestimated, chapters in the Great American Songbook. Add names such as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Carole King, Leonard Cohen, among others, to the list and the result is a repertoire of songs fully capable of standing alongside the likes of Porter, Gershwin, Berlin, etc. Continue reading

Ebony Rain Re-Release!

ebonyrainThey’re re-releasing my CD EBONY RAIN in Korea and asked me for new liner notes. Here they are– hope you enjoy.  Here’s a link to the album on iTunes!

Sometimes everything comes together– the planets align, the sax player you wanted to use is actually in town and you step up your game just at the right moment. Ebony Rain is one of those albums. Recorded in 1986 and released the following year—it was charmed from the beginning.

You see I did Jazz Life, my first LP, with all pop musicians. The guys I’d been demo-ing all my “publisher” songs with—except for Tom Ranier. But after Jazz Life I realized I needed to find the “jazz cats”—and I made up a list of the people I wanted to work with; David Benoit (just starting to receive airplay in Los Angeles), Joe Sample, Dianne Reeves and Grant Geissman. Well amazingly, all these people worked on the CD— and in the case of David Benoit, he co-wrote songs and became the co-producer of the LP.

But so many wonderful musicians worked on this CD it’s amazing—Tom Scott, Russ Freeman, Lorraine Feather, Eddie Arkin and Tony Morales to just name the room!

EBONY RAIN– I wrote this lyric while vacationing in Hawaii. One day I was walking and this “black rain” started falling out of the sky—and when I asked what it was they said it was the residue of the sugar cane fields burning down—which to my young ears seemed a great metaphor for making love! Voila- sultry, sexy song. David put a lovely melody to this- and Russ Freeman (of the Rippingtons) new to LA did a a hip guitar part on this.

SNEAKY– this is a wonderful “Jarreau-like” song originally recorded by Dianne Reeves. It’s how I got to meet her, and then became friends with her. Wow! Those synths.. Maybe we were a little too in love with them. This is definitely “80s” big-time—but I love the Tom Scott solo- boy can he play. This has a very funky melody by a great songwriter Eddie Arkin, the other co-producer of the CD.

GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS – My hit!!!! They played this song on “Smooth Jazz “formats everywhere in the U.S. during the summer of 1987. One time, I heard myself 7 times in one day – they were playing it on 3 stations in Los Angeles alone. Great melody and arrangement by Eddie Arkin. I was in my “primal” period at this point—it seems every song I wrote had me with a native girl in a forest somewhere with kalimbas and congas getting our blood to boil. Hell I was young. I sang it with the magnificent Dianne Reeves—and let me tell you, the session for “Garden” was the only time I almost bolted for the door, Her voice was so huge– singing across from me. She was amazing, I was speechless.

NIGHT FLIGHT – this song has a lyric I wrote for a Joe Sample instrumental that I loved from his LP “The Hunter”. I made a demo of me singing over his instrumental track (it was in my key) sent it to his manager—and lo and behold (I told you this LP was charmed) Joe called me and said he really dug it—I didn’t know Joe Sample at all, so it was a very big deal for me. One of the great experiences I’ve had in my career was being in a rehearsal room with Joe Sample simplifying my lyric while he amazingly played piano. Great bass part by Bob Feldman—it was tough, but he nailed it.

BUSTED FOR BOPPIN’ – another great tune and arrangement by Eddie Arkin. I got the title from the old movie “Footloose”—when a police officer stopped Kevin Bacon for playing’ music, I believe—the first thing out of young Kevin’s mouth was “But officer—You can’t get busted for bopping’—Being a songwriter I immediately wrote that line down. And the rest is history– Another great Tom Scott Sax solo. He did all of his solos in one or two takes—just amazing… and I wrote it with my favorite lyricists and friends, Lorraine Feather.

LYNN – a sweet tune by David Benoit. The song is totally true, only the name has been changed to protect the innocent and in love. Nice sax by Sam Riney.

KELLY’S MOODS – what a gorgeous melody by Eddie Arkin. Basically just me and a piano player (a very good one though, my pal Kevin Bassinson) and some string pads.

NIGHT IN THE CITY – Another Benoit tune. Every time I play it, I think why don’t I sing this one live? – and then I don’t do it. I wrote a lot of the lyrics walking down the streets of the Village in NYC. I love the background vocals on this one by Lorraine Feather, Angie Jaree, Beth Lawrence and Marie Cain. It is a very close relative to my song “Jazz Life” I wrote the melody to this one too—although Mr. Benoit did some beautiful re-harmonizations.

RAINBOW – what can I say? One of my favorite songs ever that I’ve co-written—it was another song that started out as beautiful jazz instrumental called “As If I Could Reach Rainbows” by David Benoit—I based my lyric on my conversations with David (we were becoming lifelong friends) David loved “Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury, so I threw some of that in there—but now listening to the lyric—it’s definitely about me as much as him. I think we did the whole song in one take. I’m very proud of this one.

This record came out on Pausa Records. My pal Ellen Cohn had been hired by Bill Stilfield to help run the label—and just as she’d promised me after Jazz Life—if ever she could help me, she would—and she did.

It sold a lot of copies, I started touring—I remember a great gig in Detroit at Sam’s Jams record store (remember those!)… and the twin producers of Eddie Arkin and David Benoit couldn’t have been more talented! The planets had aligned, It was one of the first records that was a “mainstay” of both Quiet Storm and Smooth Jazz formats—and in those days even plenty of straight ahead stations played it.

Notes From The Coast: Peeling Back the Onion

Notes From The Coast
Mark Winkler: Peeling Back the Onion
Published: June 7, 2013

Mark Winkler is a Los Angeles-based jazz singer, lyricist, and songwriter with over 150 songs to his credit and platinum records hanging on his wall. He has written songs with the likes of saxophonists Dexter Gordon, Wayne Shorterand Joshua Redman, as well as pianist David Benoit. Singers Randy Crawford, Dianne Reeves, Lea Salonga, Bob Doroughand Liza Minnelli have recorded and performed his songs. JazzTimes Magazine recognized Winkler as one of the top ten male jazz singers in 2011 with his release of Sweet Spot (Cafe Pacific). In addition to creating and performing, Winkler teaches lyric and songwriting at UCLA, as well as workshops in jazz CD production and marketing. The singer’s latest recording, The Laura Nyro Project (Cafe Pacific, 2013), was recently debuted before a full house at the Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood, California.

All About Jazz: Having been at the Catalina Bar and Grill show in Hollywood a few weeks back, it was hard to tell who was having the most fun that night- -you or the audience. What was that night and experience like for you? Was it everything you hoped it would be? Continue reading

Music’s Past Becomes Present

Music’s Past Becomes Present
Jewish Journal
by Kirk Silsbee
EPK1_WAt 62, the boyishly enthusiastic jazz singer and songwriter Mark Winkler has the moxie and perspective to mine and enlarge the jazz elements of pop songs from the 1960s and ’70s. His latest, “The Laura Nyro Project” (Café Pacific), is his 12th album under his own name. Through it, he learned some things about the songs, his family and himself that he hadn’t foreseen.

Winkler’s mother sang with Los Angeles bands in Hollywood Boulevard clubs as Marceline Marlowe. Her marriage to Ervin Winkler, the son of a rabbi, may have ended her career, but she still sang. Friday nights at the Winkler home in Carthay Circle were competitive sing-alongs. Mark and his two brothers — Bob and Dick — had to wait their turn: “I was 11 before they let me sing!”

Continue reading