Killer Lady Jazz Guitarist

Jesse Christen

Jesse Christen

Can’t make up your mind on what type of music you like? Well, jazz-guitarist/vocalist /songwriter Joyce Cooling can’t either.

Her large record collection includes music ranging from Ornette Colman to James Brown to Aerosmith.

“I like R&B; I like folk; I like heavy metal and headbanger stuff; I like punk; I like rap,” she says. “I just like good music. There are no boundaries with me.”

Cooling will be performing at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux Falls this coming Saturday. For the past decade she’s been one of the biggest jazz acts in the San Francisco area. Her debut album, Playing it Cool, charted at number one for five weeks on Gavin Report and R&R’s NAC/ smooth jazz charts. On top her impressive albums sales for a jazz artist, she’s also won a Female Jazz Guitarist of the Year Award from Gibson Guitar Awards. With a resume like this, she’s a good act to see.

Cooling, a self-taught guitarist, has a individual sound. During her unorthodox training she developed a unique guitar sound courtesy of her finger-picked style. The jazz guitar great, Wes Montgomery, provided Cooling with the inspiration to the guitar as her main instrument.

“Everything crystallized when I heard Wes Montgomery’s solo on ‘If You Could See Me Now,'”she says. “From then on, it was as if guitar had chosen me.”

Her first big break came with playing Brazilian jazz keyboardist Jay Wagner. He gave direction to Cooling’s arsenal of self-taught chops. She stared appearing with Wagner at big jazz festivals and toured Central and South America.

Cooling’s 2001 release, Third Wish, featured duet performances with jazz heavyweights Al Jarreau and Lee Ritenour.

Besides her prowess as a guitarist, Cooling spends a great amount of effort on songwriting, a craft that escapes many virtuoso musicians.

“Writing has always been an integral part of who I am as a musician,” she says.

Cooling is touring in support of her new album, The Girl’s Got to Play. This album is deeply personal to guitarist/vocalist. After the events on Sept. 11, 2001, she began to ponder on what’s important in life.

“I asked myself, ‘Is what I’m doing as a musician meaningful?’,” she says. When asked by a musical partner about a potential life without music she quickly replied, “I don’t know about you, but this girl’s got to play.”

Her life is driven by music. When asked what she does when she takes time off from music, she says, “Even if I’m grocery shopping I’m thinking about stuff.