Contemporary Jazz

VOICES Notes and news on Contemporary Jazz releases

More Than A Cool Name

05 MAR 10 JONATHAN WIDRAN

In the late-'90s, when ultra-melodic, pop, soul and Brazilian-influenced Bay Area guitarist Joyce Cooling was emerging as a national force in contemporary jazz, she used her surname as a clever marketing hook -- first with her 1997 Heads Up breakthrough Playing It Cool and again in 1999 with her smash follow-up Keeping Cool.

In that genre, it usually took only one massive hit to become a national sensation, and Cooling's "South Of Market" (from the first project) did the trick, reaching #1 for five weeks on the smooth jazz charts in the trade publications Gavin Report and Radio & Records. She was nominated for Gavin's Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year, was named Best New Talent in the Jazziz Reader's Poll and was chosen Jazz Trax Artist of the Year by the nationally syndicated radio show.

While continuing the clever wordplay with Keeping Cool, she and keyboardist/co-writer Jay Wagner blissfully expanded beyond the status quo. They surround the grooving, in the pocket gems with spirited excursions into many of Cooling's other longtime musical inspirations -- bossa nova, funky blues, house music, Italian film scores (the rubato piece "Out Of A Movie") and even a sparse, folksy acoustic number ("Gliding By").

Key tracks include the whimsical, funk driven "China Basin" (an ode to one of the decadent docs in San Francisco); the jazzy, house music inspired "Callie"; the hard hitting funky electric blues of "Ain't Life Grand" (which draws on Cooling's Stevie Ray Vaughan influence); and the subtle jazz, blues and soul blend of "Coasting." Ten years after releasing this classic, Cooling went back to using her name in the title on her latest independent release Global Cooling.