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In the two and half years I've been doing concert reviews, I've seen literally hundreds of shows--and without a doubt, some of the best ones have been Jazz Live presentations at the Saville Theatre. Gigs by Theo Saunders, Joshua White, Gilbert Castellanos, Christian Scott and many more continue to resonate as favorite memories for me.

Sadly, last night's performance by Mark Winkler was not one of them.

It was hard not to notice the preponderance of empty seats in the theatre, and I got this feeling, that maybe the usually sold-out audience knew something that I didn't. But, I remembered that some of the greatest events I've ever seen have also been among the most poorly attended.

This wasn't one of those times.

I had conflicting clues about the gig. On one hand, some glowing reviews of Winkler CDs from the likes of All About Jazz, and Jazz Times, who awarded his latest disc, Sweet Spot #5 Jazz Vocal disc of the year. On the flip side, a friend with serious jazz listener credentials warned that, " his vocals sound like fingernails on a blackboard to me."

The truth, as it often does, emerged from somewhere in between those extremes.

On the plus side, Winkler brought a crack trio of LA veterans to accompany him, including the imminently tasteful pianist Stu Elster, drummer Peter Buck, who handled all the grooves nicely and a wonderful bass player, Tim Emmons, who has a huge, woody sound and very solid time. However, when you go to hear a vocalist and your favorite moment by far was a bass solo...something is amiss.

Most of the evening, Winkler's vocals suffered from a lack of projection, indistinct enunciation and occasional pitch issues.

Certain things worked better than others, and there were some highlights.

Winkler models himself after singer/songwriter Bobby Troup ("Route 66"), and his covers of those tunes were generally effective and enjoyable. "Hungry Man," was sly and swinging and "Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring," done as an encore was pitch perfect, clear as a bell and emotionally connected.

"I'm Old Fashioned," and "Our Love Is Here To Stay," done as a medley came off pretty well. Winkler brought guest vocalist Delores Scozzesi out for a duet on "Sweet Spot," which seemed to bring out the best in him, perhaps because they were singing in the same range. She also performed Bob Dylan's "Just A Cup Of Coffee," with a wicked Latin groove and proved to be the better singer, on this night at least.

Winkler's original, "I Was Wrong," was another selection that really worked. His diction was precise, he hit all of the notes, and the tune itself was lithe and connected to a larger truth. If they had all sounded like that, this would be a much different review.

The trio got one spot as an instrumental, the always delightful Fats Waller gem, "Jitterbug Waltz," which was thoroughly enjoyable, as were the several brief solos by Emmons, who I'd love to hear again.

Photo by Mikel Healy

Comments
1

Doesn't sound like I missed anything.

July 11, 2012

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