About Joyce Cooling
A popular Bay Area guitarist, Joyce Cooling is known for her eclectic approach to contemporary jazz, blues, and Brazilian traditions. Marked by a crisp, funky style reminiscent of her idols Wes Montgomery and George Benson, Cooling emerged to festival and chart success in the 1990s. Collaborating regularly with her longtime keyboardist and creative partner Jay Wagner, she has issued a number of Billboard-charting albums, including 1999's Keeping Cool, 2004's This Girl's Got to Play, and 2019's Living Out Loud.
Born in 1969, Cooling grew up in New Jersey and New York in a family that introduced her to a wide array of sounds, including jazz, funk, rock, and classical music. However, it was after discovering Wes Montgomery that she picked up the guitar. Largely self-taught, she spent hours learning solos and by her teens was hanging out around such famed jazz venues as the Village Vanguard, soaking up as much knowledge as she could. She eventually relocated to California, settling in San Francisco. There, she further developed her sound after befriending keyboardist Jay Wagner, who helped spur her love of Brazilian jazz and bossa nova. In 1989, Cooling and Wagner recorded her debut independent album, Cameo, which featured guest vocals by Kitty Margolis and showcased her laid-back Brazilian-influenced sound. Well-received, the album garnered a significant amount of regional airplay.
Cooling eventually signed with the Heads Up label and in 1997 released her sophomore album, Playing It Cool. The album again showcased her collaborations with Wagner and included the smooth jazz radio hit "South of Market." On the heels of the album's success, Cooling was nominated for the Gavin Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year, named the Jazz Trax Debut Artist of the Year, and was voted Best New Artist in the smooth jazz category of a Jazziz Readers Poll. She returned in 1999 with Keeping Cool, which cracked the Top 40 of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart.
For 2001's Third Wish, Cooling signed with GRP and again dove into a funky mix of instrumental jazz and bossa nova. By this time, she had become a top attraction on the festival circuit, appearing at the JVC Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, and the Stanford University Jazz Festival. There were also global appearances in the Philippines, Guadalajara, Mexico, and Colombia. Cooling has also shared the stage with such luminaries as Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, Airto, Al Jarreau, Lee Ritenour, and Charlie Byrd.
In 2004 she moved to Narada for This Girl's Got to Play, a reflective album influenced by the events of 9/11. She took an equally thoughtful approach to 2006's Revolving Door, a vibrant mix of sounds inspired by her work as a national advocate for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). That same year, she launched her Music for the Mind project, working to raise money and awareness for mental health. In 2009, Cooling and Wagner again drew upon their varied world music influences for Global Cooling. Included on the album was the song "Grass Roots," which peaked at number 21 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs chart. Following a holiday album, Cooling returned with 2019's Living Out Loud EP, which featured the number one Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs hit "It's So Amazing." ~ Matt Collar