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Cover Article : Feature Last Updated: Jul 10th, 2009 - 13:45:00

Joyce's Cool Jazz
By Kim Betton,
Jan 30, 2006, 11:43

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Joyce Cooling

The road leading to “This Girl’s Got To Play” was a devastating yet memorable experience for guitarist, song writer and vocalist Joyce Cooling. On September 11, 2001, Cooling’s previous album “Third Wish,” was released. On that tragic Tuesday, terrorists attacked the U.S and lives were changed forever. For Cooling, that day was also cold and still. Cooling was born and raised in New York City and New Jersey. She told even though “Third Wish’ had been released on 9/11, the devastating news quickly made her forget about the release of her album. “I had just been in New York the weekend before the attacks,” said Cooling. “I had a receipt from the world trade center and I remember getting a bottle of water and a bagel. At the bottom of the receipt was a ‘thank you’ along with the server’s name. I thought, she probably didn’t make it,” Cooling sadly replied. “I began to think what could I do? I play the guitar but it felt meaningless at that time. So I lost interest in playing for a while. I had even thought about getting out of the music business. That is how far it went.”

Joyce Cooling CD: This Girl's Got To Play, Narada Jazz

Because the contemporary jazz artist says music is in her bones, it didn’t take long for her to know she wanted to stay in the business. “I came to realize that an impact of a disaster, a fire, earthquake, music at that time may seem worthless. But where music becomes crucial and really integral is in the healing process,” Cooling told “So we have to let dust settle from disasters and then music will heal our souls and give us comfort to our hearts,” she said.

Soon after 9/11, while talking one day with confidant and music producer, Jay Wagner, Cooling said she chanted out, “I don’t know about you, but this girl’s got to play! It truly came out just like that!” she said. “So the record label Narada Jazz suggested that we name the album This Girl’s Got To Play!”

Cooling and Wagner created an album of songs to heal and express Joyce’s road through the music industry. “This Girl’s Got To Play” treats listeners to all of Cooling’s musical talents. Her velvet voice and finger plucking smooth style win over fans and music colleagues from across the globe. She has performed with several jazz greats including Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, and Kirk Whalum.

“This Girl’s Got To Play” has a smooth flow, touched with harmonic sophistication. It is touted by critics as a jazzy soul, urban cool, and utterly original piece of work.

Cooling is a natural. Learning how to play the guitar by ear is a gift for the artist. “I think people learn music the way that suits them best,” she said. “So with me, my ear was my strong point. A lot of times I sing first and then go to the guitar. Both Jay and I absolutely love composing and it is impossible to imagine our lives without it. When we start putting songs together it is very much a collaborative process, a back and forth ping pong game.”

Before her stunning performances and huge following in the San Francisco Bay area, Joyce reflects on the times growing up in the New York City area. She comes from a background of musicians, primarily inspired by her mother who was an elementary school teacher. “It started when I was a little girl,” she said. “There were a lot of musicians in my family. My mom was a music teacher in elementary school so a lot of things we did evolved around music. For example, our version of hide and seek was - she would play the piano and we would scurry and hide and then she would suddenly stop the music! It was such fun! Music was my everything!”

Joyce loves children and hopes they too will be able to continue to have music programs in their schools and communities to help make a difference in their lives, just as it did in her life. “Music tames the savaged beast,” Cooling added. “Look at the kids and what they face. Violence is escalating. I believe that having a lack of music and art in the schools is a big contributing factor to the downslide of a lot of things. Music is so important. Reading and writing and arithmetic are also important, but you’ve got to balance that out with just sheer beauty and that comes from the arts.”

In addition to childhood influences, Joyce is inspired by musical giants including Joao Bosco, Abbey Lincoln, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, and Joe Henderson. “My influences are so vast,” said Cooling. “A lot of Brazilian, I love classical music and then I love music from West Africa. I love a lot of the modern jazz and contemporary work.”
With five albums to date, the busy Joyce is back in the studio working on her next album. “I want to connect my next project with one or two things that I am passionate with socially. We are determining its direction and getting the music down.”

While in studio, Joyce expresses the importance of putting the audience first as she and Wagner are grateful for all their support. “I don’t think the audience knows how much they have pulled me through and how they’ve kept me afloat, kept my heart light and kept me doing it. So it really is the audience!”

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