Vocalists Mark Winkler
and Cheryl Bentyne
go together like champagne and caviar. Bentyne is a long-time mainstay of the iconic group The Manhattan Transfer. She is also a solo performer with over a dozen CDs under her own name. Winkler is a 2018 Downbeat Rising Male Vocalist and a popular lyricist. He has recorded 16 CDs, and his songs have been covered over 250 times by such artists as Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jane Monheit and Bob Dorough. Winkler and Bentyne have teamed up to record Eastern Standard Time
, a sophisticated project of songs culled from known standards and several less familiar pages of the Great American Songbook, as well as a couple of originals by Winkler.
This is their second CD together. The first, West Coast Cool
, was released in 2013 and received critical acclaim and went to #16 on the Jazzweek chart. For that project, Winkler and Bentyne chose tunes from the 1950s associated with the West Coast Cool sound. They also created a live show based on the CD, which they’ve performed in various venues across the country. For Eastern Standard Time
they reprise the concept, but this time present songs of East Coast lineage.
Bentyne and Winkler have been working together since 2010. “Working with Cheryl has been one of the nicest things that has happened to me in my career,” says Winkler. “We really enjoy each other’s company and have become good friends. I think you can hear that when we sing together.” This was a truly collaborative effort with each bringing songs to the project. Winkler is also a seasoned producer. For this outing, he co-produced with Talley Sherwood, the owner of Tritone Studios in Glendale, CA, where they recorded the CD. Winkler has produced a number of CDs for other artists at Tritone and came to trust Sherwood’s excellent taste and deep musical knowledge.
Winkler says, “The best part of being a singer in Los Angeles is having access to an abundance of great musicians.” One of the great musicians that Winkler works with is Rich Eames
, who plays piano and arranged nine of the 11 tunes on this disc. Eames is Winkler’s first-call pianist for his live performances. They often write together, and Eames also played and arranged for West Coast Cool
Also joining Winkler and Bentyne are players who are at the top of their game. Emmy-nominated guitarist Grant Geissman
(Three and a Half Men) is an old friend of Winkler’s and played on his first six CDs.
Besides touring with artists likes Barbra Streisand, Jack Sheldon
and Chuck Mangione
, drummer Dave Tull
is also a well-respected songwriter and singer. He also works regularly with Bentyne on her solo outings. Multi-instrumentalist Bob Sheppard
has played on countless sessions with an astounding number of A-list jazz giants, including Chick Corea
, Freddie Hubbard, and Michael and Randy Brecker, among many others. Gabe Davis
is a younger bassist who has quickly become one of the first-call musicians on the Los Angeles jazz scene. Guitarist Pat Kelley
has played on several of Winkler’s CDs and currently performs with David Benoit
. Percussionist Kevin Winard
has performed and/or recorded with artists such as Frank Sinatra Jr., and Rosemary Clooney
. He’s been touring the world with vocalist Steve Tyrell since 2005.
Winkler and Bentyne chose songs that you would hear if you habituated jazz clubs in New York City back in the late 50s and early 60s. Although the CD comprises mainly duets, they each perform two solo pieces as well. Winkler gets a kick out of laundry list songs and sings the humorous “Rhode Island is Famous for You,” a Dietz & Schwartz song that Blossom Dearie often sang on club dates. He also takes a solo turn on “I Could Get Used to This (Bumpin’),” originally a Wes Montgomery instrumental for which Winkler wrote the lyrics.
Bentyne’s solos include “The Gentleman is a Dope” from “Allegro,” a fairly obscure play by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Bentyne is a wonderful actor and portrays the inner thoughts of the character through this musical soliloquy. She also performs a gently emotive version of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” as a duet with Kelley.
Winkler and Bentyne open the CD with Bob Dorough’s “Devil May Care.” The song has been recorded many times, but Eames updates the tune with a lively Afro-Cuban arrangement. Winkler penned the lyrics to “Like Jazz.” The arrangement is by pianist Jamieson Trotter
, who was also the primary arranger for Winkler’s previous CD, THE COMPANY I KEEP. “The Best is Yet to Come” by Cy Coleman was made popular by Frank Sinatra and was the last song Old Blue Eyes sang in public. The words The Best is Yet to Come" are actually etched on Sinatra's tombstone.
“Walk on the Wild Side” is an outlier on this CD. It features a new arrangement by Eli Bruegemann, who is currently the musical director for Saturday Night Live. “While most of these songs should be listened to with a scotch and soda in one hand,” says Winkler, ‘Walk on the Wild Side,’ a scandalous Lou Reed song from the 70s, should perhaps be listened to under different influences. But Cheryl and I just had to include it on the CD.” “You Smell So Good” was written by Harry Stone & Tommy Wolf and first recorded by Jackie & Roy, who were the epitome of New York sophistication. “Things are Swingin’” was written and recorded by Peggy Lee in 1959. Geissman’s guitar work on the song is reminiscent of a Les Paul/Mary Ford tune. Winkler and Bentyne close the CD with a medley of “The Ballad of the Sad Young Men” and “The Lies of Handsome Men.” The medley is enriched with lovely cello work by Stefanie Fife. Eastern Standard Time
is a cool and cultivated project by two stellar vocalists who can transform whatever they sing into a statement of great emotional depth. Individually, Winkler and Bentyne are highly compelling performers. Together, they are musical powerhouses. Eastern Standard Time
will be available everywhere on August 13, 2018.