I’m With You
Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup
Mark Winkler certainly counts Bobby Troup among his leading mentors. This is Winkler’s second full album in tribute to the great songwriter, known best for the iconic “Route 66.” Winkler issued Mark Winker Sings Bobby Troup in 2002, before he was as widely known and decorated as he is now. Winkler is a platinum-award winning singer/lyricist who has had over 250 of his songs recorded or sung by major stars like Dianne Reeves, Liz Minelli, and Dee Dee Bridgewater, to name just a few. His last four releases have charted very high and he was included as a 2018 “Rising Star” Male Jazz Vocalist in Downbeat Magazine. He is a singer, a composer, producer, vocal coach and educator. He has taught lyric writing “Crafting Great Lyrics: A songwriters Workshop” at UCLA Extension for 13 years and at the Los Angeles School of Songwriting.
Here though, Winkler is all about Booby Troup who passed away in 1999, who Winkler considers the great link between the composers of the Great American Songbook era and the writers of Rock n’ Roll and beyond. Troup was the model of West Coast cool and quirkiness, attributes that Winkler has taken to. Having recently discovered overlooked gems in Troup’s catalog, Winkler felt obliged to do another album. But, the story behind it is rather serendipitous as he outlines in the liner notes. In October 2018, he was invited to sing a set of Troup for the Los Angeles Jazz Institute’s “West Coast Cool” weekend. In the audience were Troup’s two daughters, Ronne and Cynnie, and Ronnie’s husband Bob Bayles, who had put volumes 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. On the first day of diving into the sheet music, Winkler had an epiphany and thus the concept of this project was born.
The recording features eight completely new recordings, three selections from Winkler’s first Troup release (“Hungry Man,” “Three Bears,” “Lemon Twist’) and “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring,” which first appeared on Winkler’s 2011 Sweet Spot. Winkler composed one original with pianist Rich Eames for the date, a ballad in the style of Troup called “In No Time.” Finally, there is a hilarious parody, done Halloween style as a takeoff on “Hungry Man,” dubbed “I’m Such a Hungry Man.”
As he does consistently Winkler collaborated with L.A.’s top jazz talent including pianist Rich Eames, bassist Gabe Davis, drummer Dave Tull, and guitarist Grant Geissman, all on the new material. The past album work features guitarist Anthony Wilson, B3 organists Joe Bagg and Jamieson Trotter. Drummers Mark Ferber and Roy McCurdy, pianist Jon Mayer, bassist Kevin Axt, saxophonists Bob Sheppard and Ricky Woodard, and flutist Ann Patterson. The album is co-produced by Winkler and his longtime collaborator Dolores Scozzesi.
The disc kicks off with (what else?) “Route 66” in a creative swinging, rather sexy arrangement that leaves plenty of spaces, perfect for the places sung about in the Southwest. Geissman delivers a crisp solo and Winkler adds a bit of scat. The deeper catalog tunes begin with the plea “Please Belong to Me” and a duet with Dave Tull on the unusually titled “Triskaidekaphobia,” about the fear of the number 13. The title track is a blues/jazz tune composed by Troup and Johnny Mercer that has organist Jamieson Trotter setting the B3 on fire. A predictable break in temp follows with the cautiously hopeful “It Happened Once Before,” a vocal-piano duet with Jon Mayer. The final new one is a Latin infused “Snootie Little Cutie” that appears near the end of the album.
Previously recorded material has a swinging excursion through the Goldilocks fable “Three Bears,” “Hungry Man” which has a clever rhyming scheme pairing St. Louis with chop suey and the bluesy gorgeous ballad “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring.” Winkler also does his favorite Troup song, “Lemon Twist,” full of casual and witty lyrics on the health benefits of drinking such a beverage.
Winkler clearly feels the spirit of Troup, thus the title. He says, “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 may still aspire to Troup’s songwriting, but he’s already surpassed him in terms of vocal prowess. Not only that, few singers have as much fun as Winkler does. You can hear it.
- Jim Hynes