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Featured Musician - November 2008

Name : Mike Winkle

Mike Winkle

Instrument: voice, electric bass, drums.

Early Years/Education: My grandfather was a big band leader in the ‘30s and ‘40s, so naturally I was encouraged to pick up an instrument. My mom started me on the clarinet in the 4th grade, but it accidentally broke one afternoon riding home from school. I don't think she ever forgave me for that. Next came the trumpet, which I played for a short time until I finally settled on the drums. At that time, growing up in the Bay area, it seemed like every garage had kids in it playing surf music on their guitars. I started singing with a band in high school that actually had gigs. I remember when I auditioned for them in this concrete basement and they had one of those old Shure microphones. I was wearing braces at the time, and I was so nervous. I took a drink of water, and when I set the glass down my braces touched the mike and it knocked me on my .... They thought that was great and wanted me to do it every time. We played school dances, parties and the Coast Guard base in Alameda, California. That was my first real band, but they fired me for wanting to do more dance-oriented material ... soul stuff, instead of the psychedelic music which was gaining in popularity. I moved to Portland in 1970, after my mom relocated here. I met a guitar player through an ad in the paper and we hit it off. He suggested I buy a bass and he'd show me what I needed to know. He said he knew a drummer and he thought we could get gigs. I guess that was his way of telling me he didn't care for my drumming! We soon started playing in a little club in Sellwood. That was my introduction to the music scene here. Since 1980, I've lead a casual band called Pressure Point. I actually got into singing jazz tunes when the young people started requesting it. I discovered I really liked singing Sinatra tunes and Tony Bennett material. Then my daughter, Lynn, who is a music teacher/professional saxophonist, suggested I go to Ron Steen's jam sessions, and I realized I could pull this off.

Musical Influences: My musical influences are so varied that I don't really know where to start. As far as singers go, the first singer that I tried to emulate was Gerry Marsden of Gerry & the Pacemakers, then it was Otis Redding, James Taylor, Daryl Hall, Lenny Williams, Al Green, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Kenny Rankin, Frank Sinatra, and Chet Baker. I love Shirley Horn, Anita O'Day and Johnny Hartman. Today, I think Kurt Elling is the epitome of what a contemporary male jazz vocalist should be. I was so impressed with his show at the Crystal Ballroom -- his presentation, charisma and total class. I love Jaco Pastorious, Michael Brecker, Jack De Johnette, Coltrane, Mike Stern, Joe Sample, and Earth, Wind and Fire.

Most Satisfying Experience: Probably the trip to Japan in 2005. We were there for ten days and had two nights booked at a little jazz club in Gifu called Mamo that had hosted such names as Sonny Stitt, Barney Kessell and Nicholas Payton. I got to play with a great Japanese trio that learned my material to a “T,” and it came off without a hitch. The club sold out both nights, and they treated me like a star! In contrast to that, my first gig back home was with an all-star ensemble and the audience pretty much ignored us -- back to reality. Another really satisfying moment came while singing with my church worship team during a Christmas service. I was singing a duet and noticed some people (grown men) were openly weeping. I couldn't look at them; it really moved me. It made me think about making a personal connection to people when I'm singing.

Favorite Recordings: A couple of Coltrane albums head the list -- the one with Johnny Hartman, one with Kenny Burrell, and his “Ballads” album. Charlie Haden's “Art of Song” w/Quartet West featuring Shirley Horn and Bill Henderson. Anita O'Day's “Jazz Around Midnight”; Michael Brecker's “Tales from the Hudson”; anything by Earth, Wind and Fire; Donny Hathaway's “A Song for You”; Kurt Elling's “Too Young To Go Steady”; and Janis Ian's “At Seventeen” is very powerful.

Discography: I've got two self-produced cds “This Dance” (2004) and “The Only Dream” (2007).
I've teamed up with pianist/arranger Joe Millward and some of the best of the Portland players. My daughter plays bari on “The Only Dream,” one of my compositions.

Gigs: Thursday 11/6, at Arrivederci's, 17025 SE MacLoughlin Blvd., Milwaukie; Friday 11/14, at Wilfs, 800 NW 6th; Friday 11/21, with Tom Grant at Rafatis Encore, 310 SW Lincoln; Friday 11/28, w/the Portland Jazz Singer's Revue, at Jimmy Maks, 221 NW 10th. What really keeps me busy is my private party cover band, Pressure Point (www.pressurepointband.com). We do everything from Norah Jones to Def Leopard. Those club gigs feed my more creative side and enable me to get to play with some of the best players in town and to stretch myself as a singer.

Future Plans: I am writing a bit. I have three new tunes in various stages of composition. I'd like
to finish those and record them. I would like to do a concert at The Old Church in the near future. I just need to get motivated and put it together.

Other: I feel so blessed to be able to do what I do. I want to continue to grow as a musician and hopefully expand beyond the local arena. My wife and I became grandparents this year, and it just reminds me of how precious life is and how quickly time goes by.

-- by Rita Rega


Copyright 2008, Jazz Society of Oregon