Sunday, April 7, 2013

Digging deep into the Great American Songbook

Marlene VerPlanck
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.

Mac Chrupcala, Marlene VerPlanck

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.

But there was more than material from the best-known writers from Tin Pan Alley. Other treats included her takes on the playful Ruby Fisher tune "The Jazz Buff," Gerry Mulligan and Mel Torme's "The Real Thing," saxophonist Budd Johnson's "Save Your Love for Me," and an Ellington medley that shied away from his best-known jazz standards. She opted for Duke's "Everything But You," Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues" and "I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So." (Don George wrote the lyrics for the first two, Mack David for the third.)

VerPlanck closed with poignant and stunning version of a more recent tune (1986) of Great American Songbook quality - Francesca Blumenthal's "Lies of Handsome Men."

The South County Jazz Club's 26-concert season winds down later this month with two afternoon events. Lenny Wilson's quintet is at the Venice Art Center on April 19. The season concludes with singer June Garber and saxophonist Tom Ellison's band Hip Pocket at the Selby Gardens on April 28.
Chrupcala, Neuenschwander, VerPlanck, Pruyn

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