January 17, 2008
Michael Winkle - vocals
Joe Millward- piano
Paul Mazzio- flugelhorn
Dan Schauffler- tenor sax
Lynn Winkle- baritone sax
Dennis Caiazza - bass
The highly accomplished vocalist, Mike Winkle, did Jimmy Mak a nice favor last night: Winkle opened the set of his CD Release performance, beautifully augmented by a superb band, and immediately the temperature in the room soared. No heating bill for Jimmy this cold winter night! Winkle started off on an eighteen tune, almost non-stop musical marathon with an up tempo “Nature Boy" and there was no turning back. Already in this first tune, Mike established himself solidly as a wonderfully controlled singer, able when necessary to display a lovely vibrato one moment, and an almost Torme-like softness the next, yet also to demonstrate an impressive set of strong pipes able to take a melody flawlessly to a rousing crescendo. This man can sing!
What else was immediately obvious was the quality and variety in pianist, Joe Millward's, precise and swinging arrangements, brought to vibrant life in literally every number performed. That meant that a large and enthusiastic audience was treated to Paul Mazzio's glorious flugelhorn riffs in a number of tunes, Dan Schauffler's romping tenor on others, Dennis Caiazza 's strong bass lines and tasty selected solos,
nice deep tone baritone sax touches from Winkle's daughter, Lynn, and all beautifully underpinned by Millward's fine and imaginative piano work and Marty Higgins' solid, right-on drumming.
Impressive too was Mike Winkle's programming for the evening. He kicked off the evening right on time and finished up exactly where he'd planned to! It was a great ride, and included such gems as "You make Me Feel So Young," "Blame It On My Youth" (beautifully and sweetly rendered by all,) a slow-tempo "If I Only Had a Heart," a lovely original composition, "I Guess I Knew," nicely sung and laced with a goose-bumper of a Mazzio solo, "100 Years," definitely a Winkle kind of tune, allowing him to fully display his control and vocal range, a Carole King ballad out of the sixties, and a shouter, "I Don't like You No More," a down and dirty Joe Williams gem. And more, including Al Green's “Let's Stay Together" which had the crowd on its feet and singing nostalgically along!
It's always tempting when hearing singers to play the "sounds like" game. I know I caught echoes of Bobby Darin, Mel Torme, Sinatra, and Jack Jones. Nobody grows up in a vacuum: if we're alive, we absorb things. But what struck me about Mike Winkle is that - at this juncture in a career that has included forays in and out of various musical genres - he's a genuinely accomplished jazz vocalist with a voice all his own. He knows how to use it, and has the good sense and good fortune to have surrounded himself with an arranger and a group of players that, together, produce a gorgeous sound! In my view, Mike Winkle and the band are another high point on the Portland jazz scene!
And I stayed warm all the way home!