Photos by Michael Collopy
|Bio Download as a PDF file||The
pattern of sameness seemed to surround Joyce Cooling, but so too did her
budding skewed view of it all.
“My parents were school teachers. My mother
taught Music and my father, English and History. Music was everywhere in our
house and my grammar was corrected ruthlessly. My mother not only turned us
on to music, but to all of the arts – dance, painting, sculpture, poetry,
you name it. She was passionate. My father was all about facts and math,
spelling and diction, and had the best damn directions to anywhere.
Her focus was elsewhere. Many of Joyce’s high school-era evenings were spent
on the steps of the Village Vanguard and outside other Manhattan jazz clubs.
THE EVOLUTION WEST...
Joyce’s penchant for the eclectic continued when she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1980s and began dabbling in keyboards and percussion. Music had long been the most passionate part of her life, but an actual career as a musician started taking shape only after she began hanging around an African drumming class taught by C.K. Ladzekpo, a renowned Ghanaian percussionist. Integrating the polyrhythmic sophistication of West African music with her love of melody and harmony, Joyce focused her attention on playing, singing, and songwriting.
“Everything crystallized when I heard Wes Montgomery’s solo on ‘If You Could See Me Now.’ From then on, it was as if guitar had chosen me.”
Teaching herself to play guitar by ear, she developed a personal style of finger picking that has given her playing its unique sound and feel.
“I have always played that way. This wasn’t a conscious decision, it was just easier and more natural for me to first sing what I wanted to play and then play it. I was also never comfortable with a pick. I couldn’t feel what string I was on so I tossed the pick and played with my fingers.”
A PARTNERSHIP IS BORN...
Her introduction to producer Jay Wagner, a keyboardist on San Francisco’s Brasilian circuit, gave her the energy that her self-taught chops needed. Joyce, also playing on the Brasilian Jazz scene, began working with Jay on a full-time basis. Becoming a top attraction, they appeared at many of the major West Coast jazz festivals and expanded their reach by playing in the Philippines, Mexico, and Colombia, performing with such jazz giants as Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, and Charlie Byrd.
“Jay and I grew up 3,000 miles apart, but when we met we had almost identical record collections.We liked the exact same bar of a Bill Evans or Toninho Horta solo, the same phrase from a Joe Henderson record.To use a cornball expression, we were musical soul mates.”
Joyce and Jay recorded their first two albums, CAMEO and PERSON 2 PERSON, on their own label.
“It was really a home-grown, kitchen-table operation at
that stage, and PERSON 2 PERSON doubled as our demo.”
In 2001, they signed with GRP.
Then 9/11 hit.
THIRD WISH was released on that infamous Tuesday.
In spite of the ominous street date, the accolades continued streaming in. The CD featured a stellar performance by Al Jarreau on the top-10 single, “Mm Mm Good,” and produced yet another top-10 radio favorite, “Daddy-O.” Joyce also recorded a track for a holiday release with legendary guitarist, Lee Ritenour.
Still, in the aftermath of that chilling day in September, Joyce,
like so many of us, found her perspective on life jolted. She questioned if
her career as a musician was meaningful and seriously considered getting out
of the music business altogether. After lengthy, ardent talks with Jay about
a potential life without a career in music, Cooling proclaimed, “I don’t
know about you, but this girl’s got to play!”
Late summer of 2005 marked the beginning of the recording process for the new Narada Jazz CD.
“With the arrival of fall (hands down my favorite and most creative season), I found myself wanting each song on the new CD to have a personal connection. I didn’t want to write about sunsets and highways. I wanted to keep my 2001 promise to myself about making the music real and about something that matters.
“REVOLVING DOOR is different from the rest of our
CDs in that we wanted to tell the story first, and then let the music follow.This time the stories spawned the music rather than the music giving
birth to the story.With this approach, Jay and I stretched in a lot of
musical ways. I used about ten different guitars on this CD – I even
borrowed a few.We followed a lot of sonic tangents by using new percussion
instruments. Again, if the emotion of the story called for a specific sound,
we experimented until we found it.”
“‘Revolving Door’ is a metaphor for a
situation we humans often find ourselves in where there is seemingly no
beginning and no end to a problem. It can be a frustrating treadmill with
the same path ruthlessly cycling under your feet.
The CD isn’t a compendium of
tunes about mental illness. The title is a testament to the syndrome as it
impacts both life and the mental health crisis in our world today.
|© 2006 Narada Productions, Inc.|