Known for his smooth, relaxed, laid-back sense of swing, Mark Winkler is a flexible vocalist/songwriter whose influences (direct or indirect) include Dave Frishberg, Mose Allison, Kenny Rankin, and Michael Franks (among others). The Los Angeles resident is comfortable in either jazz or pop settings; he has done his share of traditional pop and crossover jazz/smooth jazz work, but he can also handle straight-ahead jazz and bop. Whether a Winkler recording has a jazz improviser's perspective or more of a pop/crossover perspective has depended on different factors, including the label and the producer. Some of Winkler's work has leaned toward the Mose Allison/Dave Frishberg side of things; other times, his approach has been closer to Michael Franks or Kenny Rankin. And either way, Winkler generally maintains his smoothness; he has never been known as a forceful, overly aggressive, or in-your-face type of singer.
Born and raised in the L.A. area, Winkler launched his recorded career in the mid-'80s. After recording some albums for the independent, L.A.-based Chase Music Group (including Color of Love, Ebony Rain, and Hottest Night of the Year), the Southern Californian freelanced for various indie labels in the '90s (including Countdown and Chartmaker). Winkler didn't build a huge catalog in the '80s or '90s; when the early 2000s arrived, his catalog added up to about six albums. But he has kept busy doing a variety of other things, which have ranged from writing songs for other vocalists to theatrical projects. Winkler -- whose songs have been recorded by Liza Minnelli, Randy Crawford, Dianne Reeves, and others -- wrote the off-Broadway musical Naked Boys Singing! (which debuted in New York in 1999 and went on to play in a few others cities as well). In 2003, the Rhombus label released Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup, which found him paying tribute to the songwriter who gave us gems like "Route 66," "You're Looking at Me," and "Baby, Baby All the Time." ~ Alex Henderson