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Mark Winkler, one of today's most underrecognized vocalists, has some decent CDs in his discography. He released three excellent contemporary CDs on Chase Music Group in the late eighties: Ebony Rain, Hottest Night of the Year , and Color of Love , all of which are well worth seeking out. 1995's brilliant Tales From Hollywood was jazzier and artsier, while 1998's City Lights was admittedly geared towards the smooth jazz airwaves in an attempt to gain wider visibility. But I think Winkler is finally in his best element on Easy the Hard Way : the piano trio. Despite expressing cleverly-worded exasperation over working with a trio of dysfunctional losers during a gig from hell on the opening number, "Trio," this is clearly what Winkler loves - it shows in every note he sings. Fortunately, the three trios present on this recording are thoroughly professional and empathic with Winker's repertoire choices and "cool cat" vocal interpretations. As a change of pace, Winkler performs with only guitarist Anthony Wilson on "Like Young" and "Kelly's Moods." Only one of the dozen selections misses the mark: "Baby It's Cold Outside" has truly died from overexposure, and this duet with Claire Martin contributes nothing new.
Many of the lyrics are Winkler's. Winkler excels at capturing "slice of life" situations: romantic angst, life on the road, and singing jazz. They have a genuineness and sincerity that suggests that they're probably autobiographical. The CD's closer, "Quiet Fire," comes from his off-Broadway-bound musical revue, "Too Old for the Chorus." Hopefully this revue will make it onto CD soon! (Chartmaker CMG-5120)
Tracks: Trio; Easy the Hard Way; Like Young; Lonely Woman; Baby It's Cold Outside; Toys in the Attic; Ellen's Song; Kelly's Moods; Empty Bed; Another Night; Like Jazz; Quiet Fire (49:24)
Mark Winkler - vocals; Billy Childs, Jon Mayer, Gareth Williams - piano; Bob Hurst, Bob Maize, Arnie Somogyi - bass; Greg Hutchingson, Roy McCurdy, Ralph Salmins - drums; Anthony Wilson - guitar; Bob Sheppard - saxophone; Bobby Shew - trumpet; Geoff Gillette - fingersnaps; Claire Martin - vocal.