Musician - November 2008
: 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.
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.
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.
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
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