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.
People 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”
They’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.
It’s so exciting and gratifying to hear other artists sing my songs.
Here’s a few to listen to!
Let me know what you think!!
Notes From The Coast
Mark Winkler: Peeling Back the Onion
By SCOTT MITCHELL
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
by Kirk Silsbee
At 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!”
In 1971 in a Universe very far from here, noted arranger and my first mentor Jimmie Haskell called me about an audition. ABC Dunhill was looking for a lead singer for this new group, Jimmie was going to be arranging for—and he thought I might be a good fit. It seems Walter Becker and Donald Fagen had been signed to the publishing company as writers and they were going to do an LP, but ABC Dunhill didn’t think Donald Fagen had what it took to sing lead. What Jimmie didn’t tell me is that they had run an ad in the old Los Angeles Free Press, and had seen everyone in town—so by the time I got to them they were pretty frazzled.
I remember going to the old ABC Dunhill Office on Melrose—and going to a rehearsal room and meeting Walter, Donald, their drummer, and Skunk Baxter—and they asked me what I wanted to sing and I said Motown—well—they all loved Motown, so we did DANCING IN THE STREET and BACK IN MY ARMS AGAIN—it seemed to go well. Walter was a really sweet guy, Skunk Baxter played his ass off — and I was excited.
They gave me a 7” reel of some songs they were thinking of doing on their LP—the only one I can remember is PEARL OF THE QUARTER- asked me to learn them and to come back and see them. Well, I took them home with me—and to tell you the truth didn’t “get them”- but I remember my best friend at the time Myrna did—she loved the stuff -— and told me they were going to be huge (Smart Girl) -— I learned the 3 songs and the next week came back and sang it with the group—once again -– the band played great and I was getting to be pretty friendly with Walter and Skunk. Donald who was quiet and sort of was slinking next to the fender Rhodes—smoking cigarettes not saying much. The guys all had a vote to see if I made it into the band—and everybody raised their hand to let me in the group—everyone except for Donald Fagen. He said he needed to think about it.
Well, of course he should have been the lead singer—but that’s not what the label wanted. Of course I wound up not getting it. I did stay in touch with Walter Becker for a few years giving him updates on my career—and I sometimes think what would have happened with me- If I’d have become Dave Palmer (Who did sing some songs on their first LP inclduding Dirty Work) Would I have wound up a druggie, worn out at 26—but I do remember that they sure played good. Later on, I became a huge fan of their writing – and guess I just hadn’t caught up to their level of sophistication at 21!
Steely Dan – Pearl of the Quarter
I saw Laura Nyro about 7 times at the Troubadour Night Club in Los Angeles. In those days, the Troubadour was the club to play. My best friend Allison was the cashier and a lot of the times I got in free! But not for Laura — she sold out every show! This was in 1968, 1969, and in those days you literally could change the world with your music. And Laura definitely changed mine. I was a fledgling singer songwriter working on my first demos with Jimmie Haskell (who arranged Bridge Over Troubled Water and Ode To Billie Joe) and her level of commitment and “authenticity” completely bowled me over. Of course I tried to write just like her– even though my voice had as much in common with her as David Ruffin’s voice had to Eddie Kendrick’s in the Temptations! Okay, no more obscure pop references.
Seeing Laura Nyro was sort of like seeing an apparition. She would walk out on the Troubadour stage in some Taffeta prom dress gone awry and literally soak in the adulation and then whisper her comments in a voice so low you could hardly hear her. But then when she would sing- she’d sound like a banshee– with more dynamics than anyone I’d every seen. A bomb could have dropped on that stage and she wouldn’t have noticed! And neither would her fans — who worshipped her.
Many times I saw Joni Mitchell sitting at the end of the row (it wasn’t a very big club) and she’d be mesmerized by Laura, or writing furiously in a little notebook she had. I often think that her piano stuff was influenced by Laura. Especially River or the stuff on For the Roses or Blue.
The other thing I dug about seeing Laura was she would pepper other people’s songs in with her songs- like Bacharach’s Walk on By or The Kingston Trio’s Tom Dooley– and she would sing songs she was working on. I heard Christmas In My Soul– first as just a lyric spoken, then half way finished, then done. She would work it out on stage. It was just her and the piano in those days. I later saw her at the Santa Monica Civic with LaBelle– but I believe she just had a conga player added to the three fantastic singers singing those great oldies with her.
Here’s Laura reciting “Christmas In My Soul”
And here’s Laura performing the same song …
I’ve had an unusual amount of my songs recorded in the last few months — by such artists as Jackie Ryan, Jeffrey Gimble, Mon David, Shelly Markham, Jan Shapiro — with my co-production of Barbara Morrison thrown in the mix and with more on the way from Cheryl D Barnes, Dina Valenz and David Basse. Nothing makes me happier than hearing a great rendition of one of my lyrics. Check these CDs out, not a bad one in the bunch! Continue reading
Here’s a great interview I did with WGLT. Take a listen!
Mark Winkler: One of our favorite jazz cats is out with a new CD – a tribute to Laura Nyro titled “The Laura Nyro Project.” On this podcast, Winkler talks about his latest “project” and gets us up to date on all the other projects he’s been involved with in the last 5-6 years, including his jazz musical “Play it Cool”, and his Off Broadway musical “Naked Boys Singing”, among others.