By Don Heckman
Los Angeles has long been a center for world class jazz, dating back to the early 20th century. And Mark Winkler’s sparkling new album, The Company I keep, affirms that West Coast jazz, in all its splendid forms, is alive and well.
It’s no surprise that singer/songwriter Winkler has produced another classic in The Company I Keep, available May 25 on Cafe Pacific Records. He has already established his ability to gather world class artists to produce memorable musical events.
This time out, Winkler has assembled many remarkable artists who can be heard on any given night in clubs and studios in and around Los Angeles. Musicians include John Beasley, David Benoit, John Clayton, Bill Cantos, Josh Nelson, Eric Reed, Larry Koonse and Bob McChesney to name a few. Featured singers are Steve Tyrell. Cheryl Bentyne, Sara Gazarak, Jackie Ryan, and British singer Clair Martin. Six of the songs feature Winkler’s original lyrics in collaboration with various composers, some of whom play their own compositions.
Every listener will quickly assemble their own lists of personal classics. This listener favors “But it Still Ain’t So,” a funky duet with Steve Tyrell and Winkler featuring Bob Shepard on Sax. “Midnight in Paris” is another original collaboration with the multi talented Bill Cantos who accompanies with a fanciful Parisian arrangement.
To Winkler’s credit, he has produced a program of music in The Company I Keep that is eclectic enough to reach listeners of all tastes And, perhaps best of all, it blends the historic roots of Los Angeles with the stellar contemporary vocals, improvising, swinging and more in a joyous program that recalls the vivid memories of decades past