In 2010, veteran Los Angeles singer/lyricist Mark Winkler joined forces with the The Manhattan Transfer's lead singer, multi-Grammy Award-winning artist Cheryl Bentyne, playing the music of the '50s and '60s commonly known as West Coast Jazz at venues throughout California and elsewhere. West Coast Cool is this remarkable duo's music-only version of their live show, turning its passion for the music into a vocal tribute of one of the most important styles in jazz history.
Defining the style may not be so clear, but general agreement concludes that it developed around the sounds coming out of the Los Angeles and San Francisco jazz scenes at the time, and was a bit mellower than the hard bop beats and rhythms of the East Coast, emerging as the cooler side of jazz. Winkler and Bentyne explore the music of Bobby Troup, Neal Hefti, Frank Loesser and others in bringing the cool style front and center, supported by a seasoned cast of musicians as they present a collection of duets on eighteen songs compressed into fourteen tracks of gorgeous medleys, several Winkler originals and a blend of cover tunes.
The date opens up with a medley of Paul Desmond's classic "Take 5," with the singers voicing Lola Brubeck's lyrics (Dave Brubeck's widow), then merging the piece with Winkler and Rich Eames' "Drinks On The Patio." Pianist Eames is part of the ensemble that performs on eleven of the pieces and arranges most of the tracks. Other superb medleys find the vocalists merging portions of well-known tunes like Troup's "Route 66" with Nat King Cole's "Straighten Up And Fly Right," and "Talk Of The Town" with the Hefti/Troup standard (and Winkler favorite), "Girl Talk."
Of the several solo pieces, Bentyne's sweet vocals marvel on "An Occasional Man" and on "All About Ronnie," while Winkler distinguishes himself on Loesser/Jimmy McHugh's exuberant "Let's Get Lost" and on the Marilyn Harris love ballad, "In A Lonely Place." The swing is on with several songs including "Hungry Man," featuring the great Bob Sheppard on tenor saxophone making his own substantial statement, while Tamir Hendelman's arrangement of Steve Allen's buoyant "This Could Be The Start Of Something Big" makes quite a splash.
The set ends appropriately with a taste of how the duo sounds in one of its many shows, with a live recording of another Harris/Winkler collaboration, "Cool." It's a swinging finale and final homage to the cool West Coast jazz sound of the past, re-imagined and resurrected by the smooth and vibrant vocals of Winkler and Bentyne, who together take that oft-used phrase "dynamic duo," to a much higher level.
Take 5/Drinks On The Patio; The Occasional Man; Let’s Get Lost; Talk
Of The Town/Girl Talk; West Coast Cool; Something Cool; Route
66/Alright, Okay, You Win/Straighten Up And Fly Right; Senor Blues;
Lemon Twist; This Could Be The Start Of Something Big; Hungry Man; All
About Ronnie/Trouble Is A Man; In A Lonely Place; Cool.
Cheryl Bentyne: vocals; Mark Winkler: vocals; Rich Eames: piano (1, 2,
4-8, 10); Tim Emmons: bass (1, 2, 4-8, 10); Dave Tull: drums (1, 2, 4-
8, 10); Bob Sheppard: saxophones, flute (1, 2, 4-8, 10, 11); Nolan
Shahead: trumpet (3); Anthony Wilson: guitar (9); Joe Bragg: Hammond
B3 organ (9); Mark Ferber: drums (9); John Mayer: piano (11); Kevin
Axt: bass (11); Ron McCurdy: drums (11); Eli Brueggeman: piano: (14);
George Koller: bass (14); Mark Kelso: drums (14).