Joyce Cooling

This Girl's Got to Play

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If you're one of those who immediately starts retching when the phrase "smooth jazz" is uttered, you might as well move on right now; there's nothing about the new Joyce Cooling album that won't make you roll your eyes and lunge for the off button. But if you actually enjoy funky jazz with great hooks and propulsive beats and aren't bothered by a nice, glossy sheen, you'll find plenty to enjoy on the latest album by this very fine guitarist, composer, and singer. Her sound isn't especially original -- you'll hear powerful overtones of Wes Montgomery in her solos and of Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton in her production style -- but her writing is inventive and hooky and her playing is expert and stylish. The album's less-than-stellar moments (a rather generic bedroom number called "Take Me There" and the quirky, quasi-autobiographical title track) are still quite enjoyable, and there are plenty of top-notch numbers to counterbalance the less inspired moments. These include the slow and deeply funky "Natural Fact," a fine vocal number called "No More Blues," and the subtly Latin bump of "Wizard." Very nice.

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