If I were writing in the days of quill pens, it’s clear that I would have spilled more glorious colorful ink over the past 30 years writing glowing reviews of and continuously reaching for transcendent adjectives to describe Mark Winkler, the prolific, ageless, impossibly hip and deliriously poetic jazz cat for whom, as he sings so eloquently on the New Orleans styled title track of his latest masterful collection The Rules Don’t Apply.
Over the years, I’m sure I’ve called about 10 of his albums “his best yet,” and the same sentiment can be gushed about for this 13 track gem-studded album, which begins with “Sunday In LA,” a breezy and playful West Coast rejoinder to Peter Nero’s splendid 1963 tune “Sunday In New York,” acknowledges the glories of falling “In Love in New York,” extols “The Joy of Singing” at middle and later age, exudes hope or music’s future that’s “Just Around the Corner and pays brassy, swinging homage to the star studded legends whose spirits inhabit Capitol Studios (“If These Walls Could Talk (They’d Sing).”
Those are just a few of the instant classics Winkler penned with some of L.A.’s top veteran jazz composers (Greg Gordon Smith, Rich Eames, Michele Brourman, Jamieson Trotter, et al) on his way to finding two stylish ways to coolly and dynamically express his passionate affection for his beloved chosen art form – “Jazz Swings” and “Here’s to Jazz.”
Winkler’s ongoing brilliance for co-writing his own material has sometimes overshadowed his skills as an interpreter of pop standards, an issue he snappily rectifies here with sparklingly arranged twists’ on the seductive optimism of Donald Fagen’s “I.G.Y. (What A Beautiful World),” a bluesy, peppy John Beasley arranged romp through “Got To Get You Into My Life,” an intimate and world wise reflection on Paul Simon’s “Something So Right” and a whimsical NOLA brass band march through Randy Newman’s Three Dog Night classic “Mama Told Me Not To Come.”
While Winkler expresses gratitude for being a certain age because of the many “Lessons I’ve Learned,” the lyric that best expresses the spirit of this wonderful project is “Here’s to my friends, pushing 50, pushing 60, doing shows, fooling Father Time” on “the Joy of Singing.” So, yes, The Rules Don’t Apply is his best yet – until the next time he invites multiple ensembles of L.A.’s top session players (and longtime friends) to top it a year from now.