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  • Jonathan Widran


While carrying on the tradition of the 50’s West Coast Cool with verve and hipness over the past three-plus decades as a popular and prolific songwriter, recording artist and globally renowned performer, Mark Winkler has developed an enduring affinity for the great Bobby Troup. While perhaps best known for his spirited standard “Route 66,” the legendary singer, pianist, tunesmith and master lyricist – who passed away in 1999 - left behind a deep and wild treasure trove of quirky/playful and heartfelt/melancholy songs that Winkler’s gotten his kicks with since releasing Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup in 2002. Having recently discovered new overlooked gems in the Troup canon, the singer pays homage to his kindred spirit once again on his latest album I’M WITH YOU.

The 12-track collection – which follows Eastern Standard Time, Winkler’s critically acclaimed 2018 JazzWeek charting dual album with Cheryl Bentyne – is a unique gathering of freshly re-imagined Troup songs featuring eight completely new recordings, three prime selections from Winkler’s first Troup release (“Hungry Man,” “Three Bears,” “Lemon Twist”) and “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring,” which originally appeared on Winkler’s 2011 album Sweet Spot. I’M WITH YOU also includes “In No Time,” a thoughtful, lighthearted original ballad he wrote with pianist Rich Eames in the clever lyrical style of Troup, and a hilarious, Halloween themed parody of “Hungry Man,” featuring silly, spooky lyrics by Winkler using the same crafty rhyme scheme.

As he has done throughout his over 35-year recording career, the singer collaborates with L.A.’s top jazz talent. The newly recorded cuts feature Rich Eames (piano), Gabe Davis (bass), Dave Tull (drums) and Grant Geissman (guitar). The previously released tracks showcase guitarist Anthony Wilson, Hammond B-3 organists Joe Bagg and Jamieson Trotter, drummers Mark Ferber Roy McCurdy, pianist Jon Mayer, bassist Kevin Axt, saxophonists Bob Sheppard and Ricky Woodard and flutist Ann Patterson. I’M WITH YOU was co-produced by Winkler with longtime musical collaborator Dolores Scozzesi and engineered and mixed by Nolan Shaheed.

“It’s as easy as pie for me to sing Bobby Troup songs,” Winkler says. “Once I choose the ones I want to create new arrangements for, I approach the songs very easily. I feel like I understand him. We’ve got things in common. He swings and I love to swing. He’s funny, clever and whimsical yet could also write and sing the blues. As a songwriter, I am always aspiring to achieve that same range of emotions.”

Winkler’s colorful liner notes weave the serendipitous story of how this unique project came about, In October 2018, he was invited to full set of them for the Los Angeles Jazz Institute’s “West Coast Cool” weekend in Los Angeles. In the audience were Troup’s two daughters Ronne and Cynnie and Ronne’s husband Bob Bayles, who had put tons of Troup’s material on YouTube. After the show, they gifted Winkler with a box of Troup’s personal sheet music and eight CDs of Troup tunes. Somewhere on his first day diving into the sheet music and listening to the music, he had an epiphany – and the concept of I’M WITH YOU was born.

On his new re-imagining of “Route 66,” Winkler and pianist Rich Eames pull of the amazing feat of turning the iconic American travel song into a sexy, easy swinging affair with an arrangement full of wide-open spaces. It’s the perfect metaphor for the landscape of the United States, complete with a sparkling Geissman solo and some playful vocal scatting. The singer begins mining Troup’s deeper catalog – and his wide range of topics and moods – on the sultry, heartache filled plea for love “Please Belong for Me” and the daffily infectious “Triskaidekaphobia,” a romp about the fear of the number 13 sung with spirited sass and snap by Winkler and Tull.

The other newly recorded Troup tunes include an energetic blues-jazz roll through the title track, a song penned by Troup with Johnny Mercer featuring a fiery organ solo by Jamieson Trotter; a gently reflective, wistful yet cautiously hopeful “It Happened Once Before,” performed as a vocal-piano duet with Jon Mayer; and the high spirited, romantic 50’s lingo-filled “Snootie Little Cutie,” sparked anew with percussive fire and a freewheeling Latin samba vibe.

Longtime Winkler fans will feel the familiar coolness with his still vibrant takes on previously recorded gems like “Three Bears,” a zippy, swinging stroll through the timeless Goldilocks fable; “Hungry Man,” a brisk, hilarious tune with rhymes pairing voraciousness with wanderlust; the blue but beautiful, life affirming ballad “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring”; and Winkler’s all-time favorite Troup song “Lemon Twist,” which with wit and whimsy chronicles the health benefits of drinking one.

“I chose to name the album I’M WITH YOU, because as corny as it sounds, I’m with Bobby and I feel his spirit truly inhabiting these songs still,” Winkler says. “As I wrote, he is that great link between the tunesmiths of the Great American Songbook era and the writers of rock and roll and beyond.”

About Mark Winkler

Mark Winkler is a platinum award winning singer/lyricist who has had over 250 of his songs recorded and/or sung by such artists as Dianne Reeves, Liza Minnelli, Steve Tyrell, Jane Monheit, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lea DeLaria, Kenny Rankin and Sara Gazarek. He also has charted high on the Jazz Week charts with his last four vocal releases and he was included as a 2018 ”Rising Star” Male Jazz Vocalist in Downbeat Magazine. In addition to L.A., NYC and throughout the United States, he has performed in London, Tokyo and Australia. As a lyricist, he has six musicals that are playing around the country- including “Naked Boys Singing,” which has is, at 19 years, the second Longest running show in Off Broadway history. A longtime educator, he has been teaching lyric writing “Crafting Great Lyrics: A Songwriters Workshop” at UCLA Extension for 11 years and at the Los Angeles School of Songwriting.

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