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Keeping Cool

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Album Review

This slick electric guitarist seemed to come out of nowhere in 1997, becoming The Gavin Report's artist of the year based on the enormous reception of her radio smash "South of Market" and her Heads Up debut Playing It Cool (pun intended). In reality, she had been (and still is) one of the Bay Area's premier club and festival performers, trading off between straight-ahead jazz, Brazilian rhythms, and the funky, lighthearted kind of perfection we find on her even better follow-up (pun still intended and not quite yet wearing thin). Her precise, crisp, and relaxed style serves melodies that are instantly catchy throughout; she and her keyboardist/partner have emerged from years of playing more free-form music in clubs and have the smooth jazz hook thing down pat. What makes this so much more fun than the average genre guitar release are the varied trappings that reflect a myriad of influences. "Callie" bounces in with a retro-bluesy disco groove, Cooling blending her delightful wordless vocalizing and easy punch before giving way to Wagner's piano frolic. The title "Coasting" might imply "laid-back, bland, " but in this case, it finds her being spunky with a hypnotic lead riff over an artsy jazz piano groove. The irrepressible blues pieces "Ain't Life Grand" and "China Basin" give her a chance to show off her Stevie Ray Vaughn influence. When she's not being the queen of perky, Cooling simmers down on the meditative moods of "Out of a Movie" and "Little Five Points," which features her understated but still smart improvisation over Wagner's Rhodes harmony. While more a guitarist who sings than vice versa, the Brazilian-flavored vocal track "Gliding By" — with just her voice and an acoustic guitar — gives a fuller view of one of the genre's premier new talents. Kudos for also finally realizing that she can use her knockout looks and sex appeal in the packaging design.

Biography

Born: New Jersey

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s

One of the Bay Area's premier guitarists and most popular performers for over a decade, Joyce Cooling's Playing It Cool is a dazzling showcase of her eclectic approach to music. Drawing upon a wide palette of influences ranging from acclaimed Brazilian guitarist/singer/songwriter João Bosco to outstanding Texas bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan,...
Full Bio
Keeping Cool, Joyce Cooling
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