All About Jazz: You've recently released Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup. What motivated you to devote an entire CD to Bobby's works?
Mark Winkler: I really wasn't planning to do a whole CD of Bobby Troup tunes, I was looking for some outside material to fill out a CD of my originals. His work was always something I'd been meaning to check out a little more, and when I did, I fell in love with it-and I couldn't narrow it down to just 3 tunes.... I could hardly narrow it down to 12 songs.
AAJ: His songwriting style seems like a natural fit for your "cool hipster" style that you've developed over many recordings. At what point during your career did you first discover Bobby Troup's works? In what ways has he influenced you?
MW: I didn't really hear a lot of Troup till a few years ago-that's when I discovered him. I went on the internet and purchased a couple of his CDs. So it's been a relatively new occurrence for me. I was attracted to his music, because I was aware we both had that casual, almost talking jazz style of singing in common-but I was totally unprepared for how much I related to his songs.
The hipster angle to it is fun, when I sing something like "Lemon Twist," for example, I can't help not feeling cool, and for a Jewish boy from LA that's quite an accomplishment. But what really attracted me to Bobby was the intelligence, craft and wit in his lyrics. He obviously was influenced by Johnny Mercer, but he really had his own voice-which was a little quirkier and was very "dry."
I couldn't believe people weren't singing his tunes! There are so many great ones. For example, I'm only the second recorded version of "Hungry Man"-that's a great song. Those lyrics rank right up there with the best. I've been trying to spread the word-and I've been busy making copies of my lead sheets for other singers. I'm so tired of the same old jazz songs-great as they are.
AAJ: Troup's "Route 66" and "Girl Talk," both included on your CD, are pretty well-known songs, but many of his other works are probably unfamiliar to many listeners. What songs in his catalog stand out for you? Are there any CDs of his works that you would particularly recommend to people who would like to hear more?
MW: As I mentioned, I love "Lemon Twist" and "Hungry Man." I also think that "Three Bears" is just the best-so clever. "Meaning of the Blues" is a fantastic tune and lyric. The lyric "Blues were only torch songs fashioned for impulsive ingenues"-can it get better than that? Every time I sing it, I imagine I'm in some 50s supper club in New York, in a tuxedo with my tie loosened singing to Mabel Mercer or Dorothy Parker. But now that I'm a card carrying "Troupaphile" there's other ones I haven't recorded yet that I love. I really dig "Won't Someone Please Belong to Me" which was recorded by the much missed Teri Thornton, and some songs Julie London recorded: "Nice Girls Don't Stay For Breakfast," "The Blues Is All I Ever Had" and "Daddy." Oh, and of course "One October Morning" which I did record, and which is very strange but touching. If any singers out there need lead sheets just e-mail my website (markwinklermusic.com) and I'll send them to you.
The CD I most like of Bobby's is The Feeling of Jazz - it's the one that I played constantly for a year. There's also this great LP called Do Re Mi that I like - pops and scratches and all.
AAJ: In preparation for this recording, I understand that you have researched Bobby Troup extensively, including interviewing his children and former songwriting partner, Matt Dennis. What did you learn?
MW: Well, I felt like the reporter in "Citizen Kane" in a way, talking to his family and associates was my way of getting to know Bobby Troup the man-putting the pieces together-and I came away with the knowledge he was a really nice guy. Which pleased me, because as you know talent and character aren't exactly synonymous in Show Biz. The best story was told to me by one of his musical cohorts, Bob Enevoldsen. I went to his house one October morning and found the hipster octogenarian drinking Scotch and smoking unfiltered Kools. He was a gas! He told me that in WWll Bobby was an officer in the Marine Corp and stationed in North Carolina. Bobby being a college grad was an officer and was assigned to an all-black battalion. Bobby was amazed at the conditions his men were living under-especially since the white battalion on the base was doing just fine. But by the end of his tour of duty, the black battalion had new barracks, a tennis court, a club house, a jazz orchestra and even a miniature golf course. I don't know how he did it, but he did it. Some of those men became life long friends of Bobby's.
I've gotten to know Bobby's family and they're just great. His son in law, Bob Baylor, is like the keeper of the legacy, and has made me some great CDs for me of Bobby's live act, Julie London singing Bobby's tunes and this awesome radio interview Bobby did in the 90s. His daughter Cynnie is incredibly smart and funny, she works in TV as a script supervisor, and she's told me some cool stories and showed me some amazing pictures of the black Buick roadster convertible Bobby and his first wife Cynthia took out to California via Route 66.
AAJ: Who else has been a major influence to you?
MW: As a writer I've really been influenced by my generations group of great singer-songwriters: Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro (talk about under-rated) and Jimmy Webb. But as a jazz singer, it's definitely Mark Murphy, and then as a jazz writer, Jon Hendricks. Oh, and Al Jarreau---there's a couple of his CDs that are definitely keepers. I'm very eclectic, much to the chagrin of radio music directors everywhere. I've had to reign it in, the last few years.
AAJ: You've been doing some composing for theatre lately. Tell us about those projects!
MW: I somehow lucked into writing some songs for a little musical review called Naked Boys Singing! which is celebrating it's 5th anniversary off Broadway, and I've conceived and co-written another musical review called Too Old For The Chorus about getting older in an ageist society, which will be workshopped in New York this September, and I'm working on a book musical with my old pal, David Benoit. This one is about the last four months in the life of Marilyn Monroe. So I'm very busy in that world. And it is it's own world with it's own rules and joys and frustrations. Doing a CD is like instant gratification next to musicals, which take a long time to happen and are always being re-written.
AAJ: What else has been happening for you lately?
MW: The Varese Sarabande label just released a CD, a sort of compilation, of my last 16 years of recorded output-everything except my first LP. They did a lovely job of going back to the original analogue tapes, and we mastered it at the old Capitol Records studios, just feet from Studio B where the Nat Cole Trio, Frank Sinatra and yes, Bobby Troup recorded. It was a lovely summation of my early years. The CD is called Garden of Earthly Delights: The Best of Mark Winkler and Friends.
AAJ: Do you have any plans to tour or perform outside of the Los Angeles area?
MW: Yes, I just finished a gig in New York City that was very exciting. I performed with this great Kansas City singer David Basse, who's just recorded my song "Like Jazz" as the title tune of his new CD. We did a show called "Two Guys from the Coast" which had me doing the songs of Bobby Troup, while he did the songs of Matt Dennis. Plus on July 14th I'll be playing up in San Francisco at the beautiful Plush Room and in August in Kansas City.
AAJ: What ideas do you have for future CDs?
MW: I want to get back to a CD of a lot of my self-penned tunes, with a few more Troup songs thrown in. I'm writing with a couple of exciting jazz cats-so it should be good!
AAJ: You've worked with many outstanding musicians up to this point. If you could put together a "dream band" for a recording and a series of performances, either with people you've played with in the past or with whom you'd like to play, who would be in the band? Are there any other singers you'd like to duet with?
MW: The greatest joy of my career has been the wonderful musicians I've recorded with through the years. I'd love to work with all of them again-especially Joe Sample, David Benoit, Billy Childs, Anthony Wilson, Greg Hutchinson, Jon Mayer, Bob Sheppard, Kevin Axt, Joe Bagg, Mark Ferber and Roy McCurdy. I'm sure I've left somebody seminal out-but those are the ones who come to mind. I'd like to work with McCoy Tyner, Pat Metheny and do a song with Maria Schneider doing an arrangement for her orchestra behind me.
I want to sing with Mark Murphy. He's the best! I'd also love to duet with my good pals Mike Campbell and Julie Kelly (we did do one on "Scattin' In the Moonlight"). They're wonderful singers who don't always get the acclaim they should.
AAJ: Thank you very much for the interview. Best wishes for success with Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup!
Visit Mark Winkler on the web at www.markwinklermusic.com .