By: Edward Blanco

Platinum-award-winning vocalist/lyricist Mark Winkler presents his tenth album as leader and follow up to his critically-acclaimed 2009 release, Till I Get It Right, with the sugar-coated twelve-piece Sweet Spot. Winkler surely “Gets it right” with this new album, where he offers a host of new material and includes four uncommon standards he interprets with grit and passion. He starts the sweetness with a unique version of the Andre Previn song “Like Young” employing the soulful tenor saxophone voice of West Coast icon Bob Sheppard as well as pianist Eli Brueggerman’s bluesy finger licks.

The taste of Brazil is infused within all this sweet stuff when Winkler turns bossa on such tracks as “Catch Me If You Can,” “Somewhere In Brazil (West Coast)” and the bonus track “Somewhere In Brazil (East Coast)”—both voiced with a bit of lyrical humor with Brueggerman appearing as guest vocalist. The title track is a Winkler original and duet featuring another guest vocalist, Barbara Morrison. With the help of bassist Tim Emmons, the pianist and Sheppard, Winkler takes off on the George and Ira Gershwin classic standard “But Not for Me.”

“This Side of Loving” reveals the romantic and tender side of the singer supported by the beautiful muted horn of Nolan Shaheed, is one of the best pieces of the project. David Benoit’s popular “Some Other Sunset” is the highlight of the album, a gorgeous melody, Winkler and his background vocal support are played against wonderful instrumentals supplied by Emilio Palme on piano, Lenny Castro on percussion and Peter White on guitar.
Winkler’s style is often compared to those of the great Mark Murphy and Kurt Elling but it is Bobby Troup who is his favorite songwriter and includes his “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring,” done soft and cushy in a duet with guitarist Anthony Wilson. Aside from the players already mentioned, Winkler assembles an A-list of musicians which includes among them, guitarist Grant Geissman, pianist Billy Child, saxophonist Kim Richmond and more.

Winkler is simply marvelous on Sweet Spot, a richly melodic album that offers a deliciously sweet and dicey selection of jazz that’s pleasurable from the opening spot on.
Year: 2011 Label: Café Pacific Records Artist Web: