"...She may be the most accomplished interpreter of popular material performing today..."
The New York Times
J. Billy VerPlanck Trombone Scholarship Award
Caleb Rumley, student at William Paterson University is the 2013 recipient of The J. Billy VerPlanck, trombone scholarship award.
Yet More Raves for "Ballads...mostly"
"Vocalist Marlene VerPlanck searches through the Songbooks of Cy Coleman and Harry Warren on this outing with impressive results. With her two trios of Tedd Firth-Mike Renzi/p, Jay Leonhart-Boots Maleson/b and Ron Vincent/dr, she delivers clever and updated versions of better known material like “I Only Have Eyes For You” and “Baby Dream Your Dream” while with the glowing tenor of Houston Person she caresses “Witchcraft” with a magic wand. Claudio Roditi contributes his warm trumpet to “I Wish I Knew” and the lovely “Love Dance” by Ivan Linz. A few obscurities pop in, and they are quite welcome, such as Coleman’s “It Amazes Me” and “I Walk A Little Faster,” but that’s the purpose of an outing like this. Ver Planck’s deliver is timed like a 9th inning closer, changing the speed and direction like a bullpen queen. Nice outing!" -- George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly, August 8, 2013
Marlene VerPlanck Sings - "Ballads…Mostly"
"From Marlene VerPlanck's very first musical phrase, I was reminded of two great artists; Lena Horne and our very own Los Angeles based pianist/singer/songwriter, Betty Bryant. The thing that brought those two artists to mind is both Betty Bryant and Lena Horne enthusiastically sell their song lyrics to any listening audience. Marlene VerPlanck is the same type of artist. She is a believable storyteller. You hear her and you buy it.
"The record production is simple but strong. VerPlanck presents a complete package of well chosen songs that become jazzy, easy listening at its best. This CD is rich with familiar standard songs, but I was impressed with song choices that included a number of unfamiliar compositions. Delightful songs like "My Dream is Yours" by Harry Warren and Ralph Blaine. You may remember Warren wrote "I Only Have Eyes For You" with co-writer Al Dubin."
"This is Marlene VerPlanck's twenty-second CD release. The New York Times said Marlene VerPlanck '…may be the most accomplished interpreter of popular material performing today.' I agree!" -- Dee Dee McNeil, LAJazz.com, July 27, 2013
Read entire review.
Just in! 5 stars from Bruce Crowther, Jazz Journal International, July, 2013 *****
MARLENE VERPLANCK: "BALLADS . . MOSTLY" (Audiophile ACD-343)
"...her crystal-clear vocal sound is unimpaired and as gorgeous today as it ever was. Very warmly recommended to all lovers of good music that is expertly performed." -- Bruce Crowther, Jazz Journal Int'l UK, July, 2013
"If this polished singer hasn't quite reached the summit of fame, it's only because today's public lines up around the block for mediocrity and too often loses focus on real talent. Ver Planck transmits a lyric's meaning, and that's a nearly impossible thing to "teach." As has been said, either a singer "has it" or she doesn't. On this very intimate performance, Ver Planck has made a real deal, gimmickfree, tell-it-like-it-is CD. Indeed, she has it, gets it and does it." --George Fendel, Jazz Scene of Oregon, July 2013
"VerPlanck still sounds as warm and inviting as she did at 22, maintaining a polished jazz-cabaret panache that suggests a cozy amalgam of Sheila Jordan and Rosemary Clooney. Though rarely presented as such, her albums tend to be thematic, typically focusing on a specific tunesmith or two. This time around the spotlight is on the Cy Coleman and Harry Warren songbooks. Guided by two of the best accompanists around, alternation pianists, Mike Renzi and Ted Firth (with Ron Vincent on drums and Jay Leonhart and Boots Maleson swapping bass duty), she may sound a fraction of her age yet exhibits a well-seasoned trouper's interpretive instincts. Whether caressing, "My Dream is Yours," embroidered by special guest, Houston Person's tenor sax, swinging lightly through the suburban reverie "Baby Dream Your Dream" or navigating the impish foreply of "You Fascinate Me So, "she remains an indomitable, if underappreciated, champ. --Christopher Loudon, Jazz Times, August 2013
“This latest offering is such a classy affair that I doubt if I will hear anything half as good in a new release this year. How on earth does she do it, making it sound so easy, natural, and effortless? The art that conceals the art is so evident here, the singing so sublimely, so intuitively at one with the songs and the musicians that from the opening bars of the wistful I WISH I KNEW to the affirmative conclusion of WHY WAS I THINKING OF SPRINGTIME, this album achieves the very peak of perfection.” -- Gerry Stonestreet, In Tune International, July 2013
“Album titles aren’t always accurate or representative but Ballads…Mostly is aptly named. Marlene VerPlanck, a veteran jazz vocalist, does, in fact, emphasize ballads and, even when she increases the tempo, maintains a relaxed, laid-back mood. The result is a consistently pleasing torch album. Another thing about VerPlanck that hasn’t changed is a strong Ella Fitzgerald influence but she is a warmly expressive singer in her own right and in fine form throughout the session.” -- Alex Henderson, The New York City Jazz Record, July 2013
Latest Performance Raves
Marlene Ver Planck Quartet at Kitano
Thursday, July 25, 2013
by Alix Cohen on Playing Around
"From big bands to studio work, radio, television, clubs, and concerts Marlene Ver Planck has done it all, yet tonight it seems she must always have been a jazz baby. Ver Planck has the kind of skill with sliding octaves, hip takes, and scat that makes her voice a fourth instrument onstage. She often comes at phrases as if pulling notes from above and behind herself, creating musical arcs. While part of a word is bright, the rest may be in vocal shadow nuanced by vibrato.
"There’s zing in her “Sing” (Joe Raposo). It’s a confident interpretation, but not forced. Ver Planck clearly loves what she does. Opening, this veteran projects the young, unjaded quality of a performer who still wants to share. “In April” (Bill Evans/Roger Schore) follows, steeeeling away one’s heart like a cajoling breeze. In the audience, Shore looks wistful. Most of us must. “There Will Never Be Another You” is a smoky foxtrot. Ver Planck tends to close her eyes and pull her shoulders back a little before a higher note. Piano is lovely and melancholy". -- Alix Cohen, Woman Around Town, Playing Around, July 27, 2013
Read entire review.
Gerry Stonestreet's Review of Marlene at Malmesbury Town Hall, April 14, 2013
"The news that Marlene VerPlanck was appearing at Malmesbury Town Hall on March 14 gave me the perfect excuse to have a short break in the lovely little Wiltshire town where I spent some years as a teenager and combine it with the pleasant task of attending a concert by on of the most persuasive performers of the Great American Songbook.
"Thus a gap of nearly sixty years since the last time I was present in the Town Hall, which I recall was for a school Christmas party, completed a sentimental journey indeed. Not a song on Marlene's current set list as it happens, but that did not detract from the warm glow of witnessing yet another display of consummate professionalism from the lady on a cold night.
"Her voice retains its clear, reassuringly firm timbre without any of that uncertain vibrato that many singers of a certain vintage develop in later life. In fact, her voice is remarkably unchanged, her delivery still vibrant and youthful despite the demands made on it by a tour which has seen her zigzagging across the country for the best part of a month. If it's Wednesday it must be Grimsby, if Thursday, Malmesbury, Friday back up country to Suffolk, then Brighton on the South Coast before a dash back to London for the Ronnie Scott brunchtime show and so on and so forth.
"Backed by a trio comprising John Pearce on piano, Paul Morgan on bass and Bobby Worth on drums, Marlene gave us the usual blend of well-known standards like EASY TO LOVE mixed in with unexpected gems like the Mulligan-Tormé song THE REAL THING, a three song medley from DR. DOOLITTLE, (a score which perhaps it is high time was better recognised as being full of fine songs) and Mandel's EL CAJON. Bet of all to my ears was a perfect version of the Cahn-Styne ballad GUESS I'LL HANG MY TEARS OUT TO DRY and the closing COME BACK TO ME where she really pulled out all the stops.
"This was a performance of a consistently high standard, material that was perfectly suited to the singer and of the highest possible quality, with three backing musicians who each contributed so much to the evening. It is a rare privilege to witness performances like this." -- Gerry Stonestreet, In Tune International, April 2013
Ken Franckling's Review of Marlene at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center, April 6, 2013
"Singer Marlene VerPlanck closed out the Glenridge Performing Arts Center portion of the South County Jazz Club's robust 2012-13 concert season last night with a thoughtful mining of the Great American Songbook.
"For the most part, her concert at the cozy state-of-the-art Sarasota FL venue featured Songbook pages turned less frequently but just as worthy of illumination as the warhorses that everybody else puts on their short lists.
"With fine support from her ace rhythm section for the night - pianist Mac Chrupcala, bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Dave Pruyn - she gave us a lot of lesser-known gems penned by the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Sammy Cahn, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, etc. The material featured arrangements by her late husband, Billy VerPlanck.
"Her crisp and clear delivery enables the listener to savor the lyrics these masters penned in popular song's 1930s and '40s heyday, and she is still capable of the extended high note for effect. Unlike today's young pop singers, she has the good sense to save that technique for the final notes of a song - and sometimes was more effective when skipping it altogether in service to the splendid lyrics." -- Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes, Sunday, April 7, 2013
Read entire Review.
Marlene VerPlanck at Ronnie Scott's, March 17, 2013
"Considering the scope and longevity of Ms. VerPlanck's career, it's hard to believe that she could still be singing with such verve, warmth, and indubitable sincerity. Yet her lunchtime concert at Ronnie Scott's on Sunday 17 March, part of her annual UK spring tour, was undeniable proof that this lady still swings.
"Supported by her excellent UK trio (Paul Morgan on bass, John Pearce on piano, Bobby Worth on drums), M.S. VerPlanck delivered a set characterised by her signature audience rapport and deep, personal connection with every song she sang – which was a mix of well-known and lesser-known standards. It was a wet, grey afternoon in London and it seemed the audience, making up a full house – had huddled inside the cosy club against the lingering winter chill. And if it was warmth they were looking for, that's what they got.
"From the opening number to the encore, M.S. VerPlanck's set was made up of songs with a central theme – the youthful optimism of a first love. It's a theme that could easily stray into trite or corny waters, but not in M.S. VerPlanck's hands. Each song was sung as if for the first time. Her delivery is indelibly as if each standard – its melody, its lyrics, its message – is a surprise even as she sings it; a gift to be unwrapped lovingly and shared with her rapt audience." -- Sally Evans-Darby, Jazz Journal
Read entire review.
Shiela Tracy's Review of Marlene at Ronnie Scott's
"There are very few vocalists, if any who can put on a programme at Ronnie Scott's that would come anywhere near matching the performance Marlene VerPlanck gave at Sunday Brunch on March 17th. Yes, she concentrates on the songs of the great American composers, Gershwin, Porter, Van Heusen et al but it's a sure fire bet that many of those songs will be new to you. She is a superb performer who has been entertaining audiences on both sides of the Atlantic for the best part of half a century with a 'know how' and vocal ability that few can match today." -- Sheila Tracy, Swingtime, The Wireless UK, Pure Jazz Radio, USA
Marlene's latest CD, Ballads...mostly, has jumped to #50 on JazzCharts Weekly.
Please visit the discography page for details and ordering information.
It's always a series of many decisions when starting a new recording. Songs, musicians, studio, what to sing, who to use, and which studio. I was looking around our music room and found 7 arrangements Billy did on Cy Coleman songs. Pefect! How could I not include Cy Coleman, a singer's dream. Not to mention the thrill of singing seven more of Billy's arrangements.
Then after sorting some music I came across the Harry Warren Songbook. That was easy! I chose four more. Now it was time for a few favorites and I chose, Ivan Linz' and Paul Williams, Love Dance, Ronny Whyte's, Listen to The Piano Man and an original by Billy VerPlanck and Leon Nock. Exquisite!
The rest was easy, I called on some old friends, Houston Person, Claudio Roditi, Mike Renzi,Jay Leonhart, Tedd Firth, Ron Vincent, Boots Maleson, and we went to work in a nice little studio in NJ with our engineer, Dave Kowalski.
Hopefully, you are listening to your copy and enjoying it as much as I enjoyed recording it.
Health, Love & Music
The press is wild about Marlene:
Bernard McAlinden's marvelous 2-part profile in In Tune International:
This is an amazing profile in the December 2012 and January 2013 issues of In Tune International, a wonderful publication from the UK that highlights the stars of the Golden Age of popular music. Unfortunately the articles are not available on the In Tune International Web site, but here are a few excerpts:
"One of the finest interpreters of the [Great American] Songbook singing today is Marlene VerPlanck, of that, there can be no question."
"Marlene and Billy were very good friends of [Alec] Wilder's and in 1986 Marlene recorded thirteen Wilder songs and a further seven in 1991. She is accompanied by the Loonis McGlohan Trio and the CD, issued as 'Marlene VerPlanck sings Alec Wilder,' is a beautiful album bringing some great Wilder songs to the notice of the public. It was released in 1992 and there is a lovely quote about this album by pianist Marian McPartland, herself a great friend of Wilder's, who says 'Alec would have loved this album.' Loonis McGlohan, writing in the liner notes says 'she (Marlene) has matured, I think, into the very best singer of popular songs we have. Her voice sing like an instrument, and it is warm, pure, and lovely.'"
"Marlene's 2009 tour of the UK was the first that she had made without Billy, due to his ill health. She had only completed five of the concerts when she had to return home because his condition began to deteriorate. Sadly, Billy's recovery was only temporary and he died on 2 June 2009. He and Marlene had been married for fifty-two years and one can only imagine the effect and loss felt by her. John 'Billy' VerPlanck was of Dutch ancestry and had started his own career as a fifteen year old trombonist in the Jess Stacey Band. His own trombone heroes were Tommy Dorsey and Bill Harris and he went on to arrange for the bands of Charlie Spivak, Charlie Barnet and Tommy Dorsey himself, amongst others. One cannot over-estimate his enormous influence and guidance on Marlene's career. His arrangements for her, whether for big band, smaller groups, trio, duo, or a capella were always vibrant, imaginative and challenging. He knew her voice and its capability better than anyone and arranged for her accordingly. He always left room for her to express herself, allowing her to spread her wings, and she always rose to meet the challenge."
"Marlene continues to work constantly and still has lessons with her vocal coach Maria Farnworth (which tells you something, doesn't it?) and there can be no doubting whatsoever that she just loves to sing. She is as comfortable playing major concert hall venues such as Carnegie Hall, cabaret rooms such as the Rainbow room, major jazz clubs such as Birdland, Ronnie Scott's or Michael's Pub, as playing provincial clubs when she is on tour.
"She treats them all with the same respect taking them all comfortably in her stride. She continues to make an enormous contribution to the art of the Great American Songbook, refreshing it with all those newer songs she keeps introducing. She is a thoroughbred singer and I'll leave the last words to composer/arranger Johnny Mandel, who says 'She is truly a songwriter's dream.'" -- Bernard McAlinden, In Tune International, December 2012 and January 2013
Marc Myers interviews Marlene for Jazzwax:
"Singer Marlene VerPlanck has a new album coming—Ballads, Mostly. It's a delicious collection of moody songs with an upbeat feel. Seven of the 15 tracks were arranged by Marlene's late husband, Billy VerPlanck, who died in 2009. Though Marlene spent three decades recording demos and jingles starting in the '60s, she began her professional career in the bands of Charlie Spivak and Tommy Dorsey and recorded many terrific jazz albums over the years." -- Marc Myers, Jazzwax, January 10, 2013
Read entire interview. (Scroll down to January 10. Well worth the effort, it features many photos and audio clips.)
From Jazz Journal:
"Marlene VerPlanck returns for a UK tour this spring, starting in Faringdon, Oxfordshire on 22 February and finishing up in Bexley, Kent on 25 March – with stop-offs including Nottingham, Brighton and Cardiff in between.
"VerPlanck is admired by fans worldwide for her deft phrasing and personal interpretation of the lyric, delivering many of the lesser-known standards of the Porter/Berlin/Gershwin era with subtlety and aplomb. She's also known for her attention to the story behind the song, with her sets often including a look at some of the rare and interesting anecdotes behind songwriters and their lyrics." -- Sally Evans-Darby, Jazz Journal
Read entire article.
Tribute to Billy!
Billy's tribute was a smashing success - a total sellout with dozens and dozens of friends and colleagues....wonderful!
The Song Sheet Society of New York City is honoring the music of J. Billy VerPlanck, on Saturday, January 12, 1:00 p.m. at the AF of M, 322 W. 48th St., just west of 8th Ave., New York City. 212-245-4802
Members are FREE, $10.00 for friends. The music will be performed by Marlene and pianist, songwriter, singer, Ronny Whyte. CD's and sheet music will be available with all proceeds going to The Cancer Fund.
Billy's Scholarship Fund Update
William Patterson University will award the first scholarship this fall! For more on the scholarship fund, visit Billy's Page.
See Marlene on YouTube!
Check out several videos of her performances here.
This site last updated November 27, 2013