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.
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.
When Mark Winkler, a quintessentially West Coast swinger, filled an album with Bobby Troup tunes a decade ago, it was a blissful marriage of hipster sensibilities. Winkler and Nyro seem stranger bedfellows-California Cool meets East Coast Boho-yet Winkler, a gifted writer himself, makes the union work equally well. Nor was Nyro all dark basement angst. Less hard edged than such contempories as Dylan and Paul Simon, she like Joni Mitchell tended to float beyond category, blending a heady potpourri of folk, pop, jazz and show tunes. When that crazy mélange is filtered through Winkler’s laidback aesthetic, the results are quite magical. Continue reading →
So much happening right now for the Winkster. I am truly blessed—I have loads of songs out or coming out in the near future. First –and one I’m very proud of– is that I have a song on All-Time Great Singer, Jackie Ryan’s Number 1 jazz CD “Listen Here.” It’s a tune I wrote with Jon Mayer called “Rip Van Winkle”—beautiful arrangement by John Clayton with a killer keyboard solo by his son Gerald. Continue reading →
The first song I ever had recorded was a song I’d written called TROPICAL NIGHTS. I had originally written it as a little show biz shuffle- and it was by far the best song I had written up to that point. Well some of the other candidates were KING KONG and something called LOVE STAINS (hell, I was young!) so there wasn’t a lot of competition.
I was working as a waiter at this crazy restaurant in Beverly Hills and Steve March Torme would always be coming in- he was Mel Torme’s son and a very talented singer-songwriter. He knew that I sang and wrote songs too, so one day he informed me that he was producing an album for Liza Minnelli and did I have any songs she might like. Well, I thought my song sort of being an old fashioned ditty was just the ticket for Liza. I remember making him a cassette (remember those?) and then not hearing anything back from him. Nothing unusual about that, In those days, with my three or four songs I never heard anything back from anyone–
Well, my LAURA NYRO PROJECT is finally out. Recently, I was sitting with a friend and they asked me a cool question: Why Laura Nyro? I’ve been thinking about it, and here’s my answer.
The first reason is I love her music. It’s daring and sophisticated, sort of like Burt Bacharach if he would taken off the Carnaby suits and run with the Gypsies. It mixes soul and jazz and Broadway in a tantalizing brew just made for a kid who liked Ella Fitzerald and The Drifters and the Broadway cast recording of WEST SIDE STORY. Continue reading →