In the glorious L.A. jazz realm, nobody embodies the art of aging gracefully, handsomely and with so much poetic wit and charisma to spare as Mark Winkler, who’s been consistently inspiring listeners and audiences everywhere via his dynamic performances and ever-growing discography since the mid-80s.
Though as a lifelong fan and singer/songwriter of all things (and all sub-genres) of jazz he doesn’t quite embody the quirky spirit of the protagonist driving the title track to his latest gem of a collection Late Bloomin’ Jazzman, the album rides beautifully on the unique theme of reflections on the exhilarating triumphs and challenging tribulations of getting older.
Overall, Winkler conveys the grand reality that, you know what, overall, getting older ain’t so bad via artful, hipster arrangements of a batch of dashing originals of many moods (hard swinging to sultry/romantic) and a few well-placed re-imaginings of classics by fellow song sages like Gershwin (“It Ain’t Necessarily So”), Yip Harburg (“Old Devil Moon”) and Michael Franks (“Don’t Be Blue”).
Original highlights along this enchanted and enlightened path include the playful, partially talk-sung “Old Enough,” the subtly charming “I Always Had a Thing For You” (featuring lyrics by his longtime pal and fellow wordsmith and singer Lorraine Feather), the exotic, warm-hearted nostalgia of “Bossa Nova Days” (featuring music by Bill Cantos) and a sparkling fresh twist on Winkler’s moody, film noir inspired “When All The Lights in the Sign Worked” and the poignant, soul-restorative “In Another Way.”
The singer artfully bookends the set with classic and imagined Gershwin, starting with the aforementioned wit of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” (from “Porgy & Bess”) and wrapping with a wistful look at how our culture would have been impacted “If Gershwin Had Lived.” Aging so well physically and creatively that anyone over 65 should start feeling envious, Winkler is one of those rare artists who not only never misses, but keeps getting better with time.