Mark Winkler

Hottest Night of the Year

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Songwriter/vocalist Mark Winkler was a new voice on the L.A. jazz scene when Hottest Night of the Year was released, but local club fans couldn't resist picking up this album, which was loaded with instrumental support from the city's finest players -- Brian Bromberg, David Benoit, Russ Freeman, Grant Geissman, Emil Palame, Sam Riney, and Dan Siegel. Winkler's vocals are better described as smooth and lilting than full of raw and soulful emotion, but he carries off sultry numbers like the title track with considerable panache. There is romance everywhere, from the playful "The Moon Made Me Do It" to his passionate reading of Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll," arranged by and featuring the dynamic acoustic soloing of Siegel. Winkler also does well putting lyrics to Freeman's "Los Cabos" (titled here "Forward Motion") and Benoit's "Tropical Breeze." The jazziest tune in this collection is the Ella Fitzgerald tribute "Takin' Chances," which features a sweet story of jazz inspiration and the wonderful keys of Palame. Winkler takes a few inspired chances of his own with the acoustic bass/vocal duet "In a Minor Key," which provides a counterpoint for the strictly pop tunes in this ensemble. Also worth mention are Riney's sax on "Foward Motion" and "Geissman's soloing on "Takin' Chances." Overall, a very pleasant experience for those looking for contemporary music with a twist.

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