Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mark Winkler The Laura Nyro Project Cafe Pacific 2013

 Welcome to my musical easy button...Some recordings grow on you, some with you, Mark Winkler's The Laura Nyro Project celebrates personal and artistic growth both for the stellar line up and for the passive listener at home.

To start, Winkler handles the lead vocal duties like a seasoned veteran and oddly enough he is! Other cameo appearances include Cheryl Bentyne, and the great Larry Koonse on guitar. What I really dig with this release is that Winkler takes a look at time, love and more jazz than should be legally allowed by going after some of the more eclectic pop hits from 60's icon Laura Nyro. Winkler understand that the key here is to allow a great melody lead the way. New and different arrangements can be dangerous in the hands of the unskilled. If you reharm a tune past the point of recognition for the composer that you are the goose that laid the egg. The idea is to lay the golden eggs if it all possible and if you are a fan of Nyro then welcome to pay dirt my friend. "And When I Die" along with "Stone Souled Picnic" and "Sweet are but three of the gems on this eleven tracker wonder that breathes new like in the original classics without disrespecting the artists or the original work and this is not as easy as it sounds.

Nyro has a catalog with tremendous jazz sensibilities along with touches of folk and Broadway, Winkler keyed in on the jazz side and with great success. The Laura Nyro Project is not as easy as it sounds. Winkler has a different style of delivery and inflection, instead you will find Winkler deceptively subtle with carefully placed nuances to push each number into a new sonic color. While Eric Reed and I had a slight dust up on face book, Reed is the consummate professional. Reed supplied his own piano and arrangement for "Billie's Blues" and took the stride of the anti-war anthem "Save The Country" to a new level. While I will long firm politics and jazz are not the best of bed fellows, the ability to roll with the punches is something I have had to learn over the years and if you are not learning then you are not growing .( Coleman Hawkins?)

I reviewed another piece where Winker handled the production work if memory serves me well and lately it has not but the Laura Nyro Project is one of those special projects when all the stars are in perfect alignment.

Tracks: And When I Die; Stoned Soul Picnic; California Showshine Boys; Time and Love; Sweet Blindness; He's A Runner; Emmie; Upstairs By A Chinese Lamp; Buy and Sell; Save The Country; Billy's Blues.

Personnel: Piano,Organ: Eli Brueggemann; Bass; Dan Lutz; Drums, Percussion: Peter Buck; Guitar: Anthony Wilson; Piano: Jamieson Trotter: Percussion: Michael Smith; Guitar: Larry Koonse; Piano: Eric Reed; Tenor Saxophone: Bob Shepphard; Piano: Richard Eames; Guitar: Pat Kelly; Drums, Bongos; Dave Tull; Background vocals: Mitch Ellis; Vocal Guests: The Mills Brothers. Trumpet: Nolan Shaheed.