I Give Up, I’m in Love
April 10, 2015
Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes
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. And, it resounds through her body of recorded work and sets her apart. At 81, this is her 23rd album. Without reservations, she sounds as crystal clear here as on her first disc. 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.
Where some may turn coy and wistful interpreting a song like Sondheim’s “Good Thing Going,” VerPlanck takes a direct, declarative stance that swings. This is an art. She opens with a playful reading of the title cut, a clever new ditty by Morgan Ames and Johnny Mandel, that features exceptional cornet riffs by Warren Vaché. It’s a song of silly resignation (“… it’s too late for me to run to the hills!”). Her upbeat vocals glow with optimism and strength. Throughout this disc, she carries the torch of the masters with her own musical charm and effortless vocals that makes her one of today’s champions of the American Songbook. She easily shimmies through Billy Strayhorn’s “My Little Brown Book” with panache. On the Peggy Lee/Victor Young “Where Can I Go Without You?,” she is mellow and haunting searching for lost love.
Other standouts include great takes on “How Little We Know,” “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” a whimsical “Sleigh Ride in July” and “You’re Really Something to Write Home About” (Lew Spence/Roger Schore). She wraps it all up with another Sondheim beauty, “So Many People,” with more outstanding solos from Vaché’s horn which offer exquisite support to this cool vocalist who is in a league of her own. It all makes for a must-have, flawless disc for anyone who appreciates classic songs imbued with a richness by the perfect girl swing singer.
With outstanding arrangements, the musicians are sublime on every level. In addition to Vaché, they include Mike Renzi and Tedd Firth (alternately accompanying on piano), David Finck (bass), Ron Vincent (drums), Harry Allen (tenor sax) and members of Glenn Franke’s Big Band.