For whatever the reason, Joyce Cooling seldom gets the recognition that she deserves. By any stretch, her music is melodic, soulful and genuinely entertaining, in spite of the fact that she is an unconventional guitarist in a world dominated by males. When the subject of jazz comes up, the only female artists who get widespread recognition are usually confined to vocalists. Seldom do we hear the names of drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, flutist Althea René, or saxophonists Candy Dulfur and Pamela Williams. Females who play musical instruments are far too often left on the backburner of recognition. Although Cooling is well established as a jazz guitarist in her own right, with four critically acclaimed albums behind her, widespread acceptance is often fleeting when one examines her overall career in jazz. Having seen her perform and having also followed her career since 1997, I find her music to be engaging and effervescent. Her latest CD entitled Revolving Door follows the same path that she has been most noted for, which is a highly stylized soulful influx of melodies and rhythms. But there is an exception on Joyce’s latest album; she has a message and a purpose.
The main premise behind Revolving Door highlights a growing concern many families face when dealing with mental illness. At some point, many individuals can expect to face the situation on a personal level due to a loved one going through a severe mental trauma or coping with aging parents. Joyce chose to speak out musically due to her brother who suffers from schizophrenia. Furthermore, she and her writing partner Jay Wagner are donating some of the proceeds from Revolving Door to the National Alliance On Mental Illness. In Cooling’s case, she believes that this type of illness is synonymous with people who find themselves in out of control situations, which then manifests into something broader. What is just as pervasive, everyone experiences stress at various times during their lives, which can also become a problem if not immediately addressed. Joyce’s musical message is merely trying to bring focus to an ever-increasing concern that affects people from all walks of life.
Revolving Door is Joyce Cooling’s second release on the Narada Jazz Record Label and her sixth effort overall. According to Joyce: "This CD is different from the others in that we wanted to tell the story first and then let the music follow." The collaboration with Jay created a hybrid of musical styles using 10 different guitars during the recording process. The idea of incorporating smooth jazz with R&B, blues and pop fueled the creative juices surrounding the CD’s central theme. The title track itself sets the tone of the release, while providing a smooth, laid-back, bluesy influence. Another song entitled "Cool of the Night" follows a similar trend, but is augmented by Latin-induced tropical influence. But, what is most apparent about Revolving Door is the overall expanse Joyce provides. There are a myriad of tracks featuring original upscale rhythms and highly efficient groove-oriented instrumental lyrics.When reflecting upon the depth and spirit of Revolving Door, Joyce Cooling and Jay Wagner have placed a much-heralded message into their release. They bring a focus to a topic that commands attention and discussion. What is even more significant is the fact that Joyce has found a way to speak her mind musically and without words. This long-awaited release continues a process of illumination by placing Joyce Cooling in the limelight once again as one of smooth jazz’s most significant guitarists.