Guitarist Raises Awareness with New Album
Jazz artist Joyce Cooling makes musical statement with Revolving Door
Like most Americans, chart-topping jazz musician Joyce Cooling did some soul-searching and re-evaluated her priorities following the events of 9/11. The award-winning guitarist even questioned her chosen career in music, but ultimately decided it was still the right path for her.
Photo by Michael Collopy
In 2005, as she began work on her seventh album, Cooling found herself wanting more of a personal connection with her music. "I didn't want to write about sunsets and highways," she said. "I wanted to keep my 2001 promise to myself about making the music real and about something that matters."
That "something" for Cooling was her brother's struggle with schizophrenia.
Joyce Cooling's new album, Revolving Door, was released on September 12, 2006. The title, she said, is a metaphor for her family's experience of living with a mental illness.
"The specific 'revolving door' that I am referring to in this CD is the cycle of mental illness," explained Cooling. "Everything from the treatments, the so-called solutions, and the unknown causes, to the inaccurate stigmas of mental illness all suffer from this Revolving Door syndrome.
"Having grown up with a brother with schizophrenia, I am a part of one of those millions of families caught in the Revolving Door."
Cooling's brother has been battling schizophrenia ever since they grew up together in New Jersey.
"For almost my entire life, my family has been on the front line of the mental health crisis," revealed Cooling. "Ever since my brother was diagnosed, his condition – and its relentless, dominating presence – has been the single most pressing element in my family's universe."
The stigma of mental illness did not make things any easier. But with her new album, Cooling is hoping to change attitudes and raise awareness.
"Most people seem to be embarrassed discussing or try to hide mental illness, but after much soul-searching, I decided to ‘come out' about this reality to do what I can to bring attention and positive action to the issues of mental health."
To that end, Cooling has chosen to donate a portion of proceeds from the sale of Revolving Door to NAMI, to help support people living with mental illness.
"The pros tell us that by fostering understanding and positive action, we can make a difference for those who suffer and for those around them who likewise struggle in the wake of the disease," explained Cooling. "That is why I have chosen to work directly with NAMI."
In addition to proceeds from the album, Cooling has also been supporting NAMI in other ways.
In June, Cooling and her longtime keyboardist partner Jay Wagner were sponsors of the NAMIWalks in San Francisco, the city she now calls home. The event raised over $275,000. And over Labor Day weekend, Cooling distributed information about NAMI after her performance at the Detroit Jazz Festival.
Cooling wants NAMI to have a presence at her other concert dates, as well, to distribute brochures and information about mental illness and the organization.
"I am excited about this!", Cooling told ContemporaryJazz.com. "What was so cool is that I found out that there is a [NAMI] chapter in every single state in the country. And often in states, there are multiple chapters! So, that's really cool."
In addition to the portion of album proceeds that Cooling is giving to NAMI, NAMI will receive an additional percentage when the album is purchased via this special link to Amazon.com through NAMI's participation in the Amazon Associates program.
Though the title track deals with a serious issue, the album itself is an eclectic sampling of electric and acoustic jazz, R&B, blues, and Latin rhythms. Cooling used ten different guitars for the ten songs on Revolving Door specifically to give each one a unique voice. She also sings on several numbers.
The early reaction to Revolving Door has been positive. All Music Guide wrote, "…Cooling finds a way to balance the darker edges with the joyful breeziness that has long endeared her to fans…These songs show tremendous artistic growth for both her and her longtime keyboardist partner Jay Wagner…"
Jazz Review said, "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… …They (Cooling & Wagner) 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."
For nearly a decade, Cooling has delivered #1 hits and Top 10 singles to smooth jazz radio. She was voted "Best New Talent" in a Jazziz Reader's Poll, won the Gibson Guitars Award as "Best Jazz Guitarist of the Year," and was nominated as "Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year" by the Gavin Report.