Artists you should know: 1/4 to Four

January 24, 2008 

Initially, pianist Henry Winckel set out to record a solo jazz CD.

Yet ideas change -- and his end product was a group featuring Jimmy Haslip of The Yellowjackets and Paul Perez of Tower of Power.

We talked to Winckel about his group 1/4 to Four and its CD, "Night Owl."

This started as a solo project and ended as a group of four, plus guests. Is the result anything like you expected at the start? No, the way the album turned out has far exceeded my initial expectations. When I started, I didn't anticipate that some of the industry's top session players would be playing on it.

Why jump from doing a solo project to a group project? I'd written and recorded about six tunes, playing all the piano, bass, drum and background parts on synthesized and sampled instruments. At that point, I decided I wanted to add some real saxophone. So I hired former Tower of Power saxophonist Paul Perez, and it just snowballed from there, in a very good way.

Jazz is a wide genre. Tell us more about your particular sound. I would say it falls most closely into the smooth-jazz category the same way the Yellowjackets fall into that category, meaning the songs are not made up of a four-bar loop that just repeats endlessly. The music is very melodic and easy to listen to. And although the musical themes may sound deceptively simple, there's a complexity to them that keeps the tunes interesting, but not to the extent that you lose your listeners because they can't tell where the improvisation starts and the melody begins.

I know you were especially proud to have Jimmy Haslip of The Yellowjackets as a guest. How did that happen? That was Paul's idea. We sent Jimmy a CD with a rough mix and asked if he'd play on three of the tunes. He called back the next day and asked if he could play on two more because he really dug the tunes. I figured that was a really good indication we had something special. In the end, Jimmy wound up playing on seven of the album's 13 tracks.

Where can people pick up the CD? How much does it cost? The CD costs $15. It can be bought online at CD Baby or downloaded from sites such as iTunes, Napster and Rhapsody. CDs are also available at Sierra Trophy in Porterville, and Coffee Etc., Giffords Market and Lavender Garden, all in Springville. I also sell them through my Web site, www.myspace.com/henrywinckelpianistcomposer.

Know a local musician who more people should be familiar with? Send the who and why to Mike Osegueda, mosegueda@ fresnobee.com.

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