Thursday, April 07, 2011

Joyce Cooling - Global Cooling (2009)

Smooth jazz is often boring and redundant. In the worst cases I would even call it modern elevator music, the kind of stuff you hear on the telephone when you're on hold for twenty-five minutes waiting to speak with a customer service rep you swear doesn't exist. Fortunately, the music's stature may be improving due to San Francisco’s Joyce Cooling. She is an anomaly in the world of smooth jazz because her work is quite compelling. The award winning Cooling is not a musician who should be heard only on your speaker phone. Global Cooling, her seventh CD, needs to be experienced on a good set of headphones and it must have a permanent home on your ipod so you can take her jazz with you everywhere you go.

In addition to being a fine electric guitarist Cooling is also an appealing vocalist. Her singing adds an extra dimension to five of the eleven tracks on her latest disc but it’s her love of world beats and foreign instruments, more than her axe playing, that make this collection of tunes strikingly different from almost everything else in the sub-genre.

"Grass Roots" opens the disc and is a typical but pleasant smooth jazz instrumental with a horn section. However, the title track ups the ante somewhat with a heavier disco beat and synthesized strings that are reminiscent of Gamble and Huff's Philly soul factory. "Save This Dance For Me" has a nice vocal with a Latin flavored chart. On "We Can" Cooling combines some clean sounding, white-girl rap on the philosophical verses with a chorus that belongs on a modern dance record. The song is not jazz at all, and upon your first encounter it may feel out of place, but after several listens you'll find it to be a refreshing addition to the whole affair. Sitar and tabla add some Indian spices to the interesting "Cobra" while "What Are We Waiting For" has a radio friendly, sexy vocal. "Dolores In Pink" features Cooling’s good friend, Brazilian drummer Celso Alberti, who brings the marvelous rhythms of his homeland to the forefront. "Chit Chat," gives us more fine vocals and horns on a song about celebrity gossip. "In the Streets" has a percussion only instrumental arrangement percolating underneath vocals by Cooling, Alberti, and her musical co-conspirator, Jay Wagner, who, as usual, produced the album and wrote all of the songs with the star.

For music lovers who need a dose of something a little different, yet not too far out of the mainstream, Global Cooling is perfect medicine.

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