After a couple successful CDs on Heads Up International, contemporary guitarist Joyce Cooling has hit the big time on her GRP debut, Third Wish. The program is accessible enough to reach a wide audience, yet it offers plenty of substance to reach ears that are seeking something more than standard-fare ear candy.
All of the compositions are by Cooling and long-time musical partner, keyboardist and producer Jay Wagner. Cooling’s guitar solos are consistently thoughtful and well-developed, and a bit more self-assured and adventurous than on past outings. On several tunes, she scats along with her playing, and on “It’ll Come Back to Me” steps to the fore as a lead vocalist. Her warm alto voice boasts clear enunciation and perfect intonation. Al Jarreau guest stars on “Mm-mm Good,” offering playful jiving and scatting in his instantly recognizable signature style, and Cooling answers him with some vocalizing of her own. Only “Whenever the Rain Falls” succumbs somewhat to the pitfall of trite, repetitive background vocals.
In addition to Cooling’s guitar and vocal contributions, there are a lot of interesting rhythmic things happening here. Tower of Power drummer David Garibaldi gives several of the pieces a decidedly crisp, funky edge, either on drums or drum loops. Peter Michael Escovedo (Pete’s son and Sheila E.’s brother) adds plenty of tasty percussion throughout. A particularly interesting piece is “Tamba,” which features Brazilian percussionist Helcio Milito performing on a drum kit of his own invention, the Tamba Drum Set. The sonic landscape is rounded out by Bill Ortiz and Peter Welker on trumpet (muted and open) and flugelhorn on several cuts.
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