Bentyne Shines in New Duet Album

Bentyne cover

EASTERN STANDARD TIME / DOROUGH-KIRK: Devil May Care. DIETZ-SCHWARTZ: Rhode Island is Famous For You. STEELMAN-WINKLER: Like Jazz. RODGERS-HAMMERSTEIN: The Gentleman is a Dope. MONTGOMERY-WINKLER-NYMAN: I Could Get Used to This (Bumpin’). COLEMAN-LEIGH: The Best is Yet to Come. LANDESMAN-WOLF: Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.* REED: Walk on the Wild Side. STONE-WOLF: You Smell So Good. MARSHALL-LEE: Things Are Swinging. LANDESMAN-BLUMENTHAL-WOLF: Ballad of the Sad Young Men/Lies of Handsome Men / Cheryl Bentyne, Mark Winkler, voc; Rich Eames, pno; Bob Sheppard, sax; Grant Geissman, *Pat Kelley, gtr; Stephanie Fife, cel; Gabe Davis, bs; Dave Tull, dm; Kevin Winard, perc / Café Pacific Records CPCD 4065

The majority of modern-day jazz singing seems to be in a retro-‘50s-lounge-bachelor pad mode. Most of the recordings I am submitted for review by “jazz” singers nowadays feature whispery voices who just swing a little, kind of like Julie London or Jack Jones, a genre I relate to Ramada or Holiday Inn cocktail lounges. But apparently, this type of singing is very popular nowadays while the more creative singers in the mold of Anita O’Day, Mark Murphy or Sheila Jordan are shunted to the side.

Downbeat has named Mark Winkler a Rising Male Vocalist, so apparently they hear him differently from me. He has a dry, throaty but pleasant voice, good diction, and swings a little, but the clear star is Cheryl Bentyne, former member of Manhattan Transfer. There is so much more going on in her singing—those little rhythmic interstices between beats, her hipper phrasing and her better command of the jazz idiom—that it sounds like Winkler is just along for the ride. Also, when one considers how many thousands of performances she must have given as both a member of Manhattan Transfer and as a soloist, it’s amazing how much of her vocal tone, sweetness, range and vocal control she has retained, and happily, her clear superiority as both vocalist and jazz artist helps Winkler sound better than he is in the duets. Every time he sings a solo number (i.e., Rhode Island is Famous for You), he sounds like a pretty fair lounge jazz guy but makes very little impression without her. If you want to hear a really good male jazz singer in the same vein, I highly recommend Steven Taetz.

The backup band is laid-back but very hip, which also helps a great deal. All of the little spot solos are excellent (I was particularly impressed by guitarist Grant Geissman), and they have a great ensemble sound. Bottom line: if you’re a Cheryl Bentyne fan, as I am, you’ll love this CD for her contribution. Wonderful to know that she’s still “got it.”

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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Read my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed guide to the intersection of classical music and jazz


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