Latest Performance Raves
YOU'RE REALLY SOMEONE TO WRITE HOME ABOUT
By Keith Prior
Atop the appropriately named Steep Hill in Lincoln, close by the city's magnificent cathedral, is Stokes Collection Cafe, where the great American singer Marlene VerPlanck recently entertained her audience with an evening of popular song.
With the excellent John Pearce Trio backing her, VerPlanck covered some of my favorites, including Oh, You Crazy Moon and Sleigh Ride in July, by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen; and Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane's Too Late Now, which she recorded a cappella in 1989, on her CD A Quiet Storm.
At times the singer's choices reminded me of one of those Glenn Miller Army-Air Force medleys, the kind that featured things old, new, borrowed and blue.
Old: You Can Depend on Me, written by Charles Carpenter, Louis Dunlap and Earl 'Fatha' Hines, way back in 1932.
New: I Give Up, I'm in Love, penned by Morgan Ames and Johnny Mandel, and recorded (before anyone else) by VerPlanck, just last year.
Borrowed: How Little We Know, by Carolyn Leigh and Philip Springer, who adopted, perhaps unwittingly, the title of a mid-forties tune by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael, which the singer recorded in 1999.
Blue: Blues in My Heart, by Irving Mills and Benny Carter.
By almost any measure, VerPlanck is a virtuoso performer. How so?
For starters, she has stamina! The singer began her latest UK tour in early March and had already graced a dozen or more venues, including Ronnie Scott's in London, before Stokes; yet she was as fresh and swinging there as at any time I've seen her over the past 30 years.
Then there is her phrasing, which is extraordinary, even when the tempo is racing. To get a sense of this consummate talent, listen to the New Jersey-born singer's take on Bob Dorough's I've Got Just About Everything, from A Quiet Storm.
She's relaxed and warm-hearted on stage, exuding the kind of presence, charm and rapport that other performers can only dream of.
One quality you might not necessarily associate with singers is integrity. Throughout her career, VerPlanck, who released her first album in 1955, has shown a penchant for lesser known numbers, rarely if ever recording anything that might be considered purely commercial, even though it might've meant a larger fan base. She brings to mind the illustrious Mildred Bailey, an entertainer renowned for her unwillingness to compromise on the material she sang. (Asked whether she was a jazz singer, Bailey famously replied: 'Hell, honey, I just sing!')
Lastly, and most important, there is the Marlene VerPlanck voice, which quite simply is peerless. To paraphrase the title of a song written by Roger Schore and Lew Spence and recorded by the singer on her most recent CD, She Really Is Someone To Write Home About.
From John Toogood, Radio Lincolnshire, March 21, 2015
The delightful, charming and wonderfully talented Marlene Verplanck made her Annual visit to the United Kingdom this month, and stopped off during her busy 18 date tour schedule to play at The Collection Cafe/Bar in Danes Terrace, last Friday to perform for Lincoln's Jazzpac, and what a triumph the evening was for all of us. Like opening a tin of your favourite chocolates on Christmas morning, this very experienced singer had us all wanting her to open our much loved 'Quality' confectionary song and perform it in her own unique, effortless way.
Her voice, timing, choice of songs, and delivery were immaculate, as one would expect from someone who has spent a lifetime working in the music industry with the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Mel Torme, Perry Como, and as one of the backing singers on Sinatra's 1980 recording Trilogy with arrangements by Don Costa, Billy May, and Gordon Jenkins. Her oeuvre has centred on Big Band Jazz, and she made her debut solo album in 1955 to critical acclaim. Her choice of numbers to reflect her career was pure quality, as she included many rare gems from The Great American Songbook, along with show numbers from the pens of Lerner & Lowe and Stephen Sondheim.
At times it was like opening a front door and listening to a number that you have heard performed many times before, but in a completely new way, where every syllable comes across as clear as a mountain stream. Marlene is laid back, cool, sophisticated with tone, diction and phasing rarely heard these days.
Her equally experienced backing trio on this tour consists of the great pianist/accompanist John Pearce, Bobby Worth (Drums) and Paul Morgan (Double Bass) all of whom added to a great evening of Supper Club Cafe Jazz to cherish.
Marlene was described recently by The New York Times as "may be the most accomplished interpreter of popular material today...." and I would endorse that wholeheartedly. -- John Toogood, Radio Lincolnshire, March 21, 2015
More Raves for "I Give Up, I'm in Love"
From Scott Yanow, Los Angeles Jazz Scene
"Very early in her career, back in the late-1950s, Marlene VerPlanck learned the importance of being able to sight-read anything, always singing completely in-tune, and doing justice to whatever lyrics she was called upon to interpret. She spent 30 years as a greatly in-demand studio and session singer, doing voice-overs for more than her share of famous commercials. However she never stopped singing her brand of melodic and swinging jazz, recording a long string of delightful recordings that has continued
up to the present time.
"Marlene VerPlanck’s latest recording, I Give Up, I’m In Love, features her sounding ageless on eight superior obscurities and four standards. She is joined by two different rhythm sections (with either Mike Renzi or Todd Firth on piano), with four guest appearances apiece by cornetist Warren Vache and tenor-saxophonist Harry Allen. Three songs (including two of Vache’s features) have the singer joined by the Glenn Franke Big Band.
"In every setting, Marlene VerPlanck shows that she has not lost a thing through the years. She excels at both the standards (such as “The Way You Look Tonight” and “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was”) and the lesser-known tunes which includes two Stephen Sondheim songs plus “I Love The Way You Dance,” “So Long My Love,” “Sleigh Ride In July” and the debut of the Morgan Ames/Johnny Mandel title cut. While she mostly sticks to the words and the melody, she also scats a little, swings a lot and consistently displays the ability to place notes perfectly. Although one can imagine each of the composers and lyricists of these songs loving these performances, those who enjoy jazz-inspired singers will also find much to savor.
'I Give Up, I’m In Love, which is easily recommended, is available from wwwjazzology.com." -- Scott Yanow
From John Hoglund, for Cabaret Scenes, April 10, 2015
"The difference between a technically savvy jazz singer blithely phoning in her stuff and a natural, serious jazz/swing artist who takes the whole package to another level, is exemplified by Marlene VerPlanck. What is, perhaps, most special about her is her lack of exhibitionistic bravado. That alone is refreshing.... She approaches a song with gusto and defiantly swings into the mood with a grace and a style that is too rare in today’s crazed music world. As always, she remains at home with the classics and, thankfully, shows no sign of slowing down. Without sounding too formal, she respects the songs’ melodic details and renders lyrics almost with the enunciation of a polished recitalist—fronting a big band." -- John Thurgood
Read entire review.
From Don Albert, artlink.co.za, February 20, 2015
Setting the vocal pace for 2015
"Too often the jazz scribes only look at the latest and newest female vocalist on the scene and they ignore many of the excellent jazz singers still around, especially in New York. One of my favourites Marlene VerPlanck comes to mind. She has a splendid voice and range, every note is in tune and her enunciation is perfect. One of her strong points is her respect of the lyrics. I’ve just received her latest album named I Give Up, I’m In Love (on Audiophile ACD-347) which is filled with wonderful songs, some might not be familiar but you’ll soon warm to them." -- Don Albert
Read entire review.
From Dee Dee McNeil, Ambassador Magazine, Spring 2015
Persons of Interest
M'mm M'mm Good
Marlene (Pampinella) VerPlanck grew up in Newark, NJ., where her family owned one of the Garden State's most successful Italian restaurants - Biase's Restaurant. She learned to cook Italian dishes from her mom, Pauline, who was a master chef. But while cooking was a joyful hobby, it wasn't VerPlanck's passion. Music is what touches her heart.
VerPlanck started singing at 19 and was appearing at local venues when famed Savoy producer Ozzie Cadena heard her. He quickly booked a recording session that included trumpeter Joe Wilder, flutist Herbie Mann, pianist Hank Jones, and bassist Wendell Marshall, among others, to make the 1955 album "With Every Breath I take."
But most of us may be familiar with her voice from hearing it on the Ã‡ampbell's Soup commercial singing "Mmm Mmm Good." She also sang the sexy "Yeah" in the Michelob beer ads, and "Nationwide is on your side" in the original Nationwide jingle. As a studio singer, she has sung back up for all the greats-from Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra to Kiss.
VerPlanck is third generation Italian American-her mom's side from San Fele in the Region of Basilicata, and dad's from Palermo.
Her 23rd release, "I Give Up, I'm In Love" hit the stores in November and has received world wide notices for a world class vocalist!
From Marc Myers, Jazzwax.com, December 15, 2014
"Marlene has a voice like a great piece of candy. It tastes great from time it hits your ear and continues to enthrall and enchant as the sweetness rolls around inside. Marlene knows her way around a studio mic and how to sell a song with charm and hipness."
"This album is a blast from start to finish, and Marlene's voice has never been more joyfully and warm. Framed by superb musicians, the result is a rare, beautiful treat." --Marc Myers, Jazzwax.com
Read entire review.
From Mark S. Tucker, accousticmusic.com, December 3, 2014
"Good grief, a year has passed and her latest, I Give Up, I'm in Love, is a good deal spunkier than last year's Ballads…Mostly (here). Let's see if Robert Plant can do this same sort of gig when hits that age (hell, he can't even do it now!). I think Marlene discovered that age-reversing grail William Saroyan sought in vain, either that or, as I noted in 2013, she tracked down Ponce de Leon, flirted him to distraction, took a few mouthfuls as he blushed and stammered, then took to her heels so that he never knew what happened, she dashing away giggling. Proof of that is rendered by none other than Johnny Mandel (who newly wrote the title tune with Morgan Ames, the two giving Marlene the first shot at it here), who, upon hearing this CD, said "Marlene is truly an incredible singer". Who better than he would know?" -- Mark S. Tucker, accousticmusic.com
Read entire review.
"Marlene VerPlanck is the real deal - she knows both how to sing, how to communicate, how to move us, and how to pull our the loudest applause around.
Highly Recommended." -- Grady Harp, Hall of Fame Top 100 Reviewer Vine Voice, December 2, 2014
From Pierre Giroux, Audiophile Audition, December 1, 2014
Here are a few excerpts:
"Marlene VerPlanck is one of those singers who defies characterization although the words under-appreciated or over-looked often come to mind and they do not really do her justice.... However during the past two decades years, Marlene has been reasonably prodigious in releasing albums on a regular basis, and this latest effort I Give Up, I’m In Love is a real jewel and certainly deserves a broad acclamation.
"In this current release, which is composed of a number of well-known standards from the Great American Songbook, and a few lesser-recognized pieces, Marlene gets terrific support from the big band of Glenn Franke and two separate trios, one lead by pianist Mike Renzi, and the other by pianist Tedd Firth with the added accompaniment on several tracks from tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and cornetist Warren Vache.
"In the liner notes, author of Why Jazz Happened ,Marc Myers states the following: “Marlene strives for tonal perfection but never skimps on key ingredients: love and passion.” All this and more is evident in this release." -- Pierre Giroux, Audiophile Audition
Read entire review.
From Marcia Hillman, New York City Jazz Record
"Marlene VerPlanck adds to her reputation as a first-rate vocalist with this latest CD, once again choosing her material wisely with a selection of favorites, little-done songs and the first recording of a new tune by Johnny Mandel and Morgan Ames (the title song).
"She features accompaniment ranging from the Glenn Franke Big Band to two different trios, comprised of pianist Mike Renzi, bassist David Finck and drummer Ron Vincent or pianist Tedd Firth, bassist Jay Leonhart and Vincent, plus guest appearances by cornet player Warren Vache and tenor saxophonist Harry Allen.
"Starting off with the title track, VerPlanck demonstrates her ability to belt out a song with a big band accompaniment—a talent she displayed early in her career with the Charlie Spivak and Tommy Dorsey bands—while tunes done with a trio show her able to carry off a more intimate approach.
"VerPlanck has always communicated successfully with clear vocal tones, remarkable range, diction and devotion to the lyrics and their interpretation, qualities that have not diminished one bit over the years.
"There are many delightful moments to be found on this album, but notable is VerPlanck's lovely and sensitive rendition of Peggy Lee-Victor Young's Where Can I Go Without You?, Vache adding his special touch with cornet fills and a solo and also heard delivering a swinging solo with the big band on the title track.
"Allen enhances VerPlanck's vocals on several tracks, especially smooth and sensitive on How Little We Know. Vincent shines with his tapdancing brushwork on I Love The Way You Dance and Sleighride In July, while pianists Renzi and Firth (the latter with whom VerPlanck has worked many times) show off their talents for vocal accompaniment (a very special art) in their respective appearances." -- Marcia Hillman, New York City Jazz Record
"Marlene VerPlanck is truly an incredible singer. And not only that, she has just given us an incredible album, "I Give Up, I'm In Love". When it comes to her choice of songs and the way she sings them, there's nobody better." -- Johnny Mandel
"I love your voice, taste and choice of songs! You have probably rescued more great songs than anyone else I can think of. Know that I adore you personally and professionally."
With love -
"Never dated and always an inspiration, Marlene Ver Planck is a clarion call for taste, savvy and pristine vocal purity in a disintegrating morass of declining musical values. Polished and beautiful to listen to, she is always full of surprises and lives up to her high standards with finger-snapping panache. She is something of a marvel." --Rex Reed
“I Give Up, I’m In Love” is a solid piece of work, with an eclectic choice of standards and would-be standards..." -- Doug Boynton, Girlsingers.org
"A world class vocalist, with world class musicians." -- Frank Wilner, Voices in Jazz
" VerPlanck does a fabulous job of selecting superb songs that are either new, undeservedly neglected or standards that are not overdone. She is in fine voice." -- Joe Lang, New Jersey Jazz Magazine
Photographs and Memories
Here's a slideshow with some photos of Marlene and her fans and friends. Click on the link to see the first slide and then click the play arrow at the top of the photo to start the show. You can use the VCR controls at the top of each image to run or pause the show. View photos here.
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