Marlene VerPlanck – I Give Up, I’m In Love – Audiophile Records ACD-347 41:08 ****:
(Marlene VerPlanck – vocals; Mike Renzi – piano; David Finck – bass; Ron Vincent – drums Tracks 3, 5, 8, 9, 12; Tedd Firth – piano; Jay Leonhart – bass; Ron Vincent – drums 2, 6, 7, 11; Harry Allen – tenor saxophone 3, 6, 8, 11; Varren Vache – cornet 1, 4, 9, 12; Glenn Franke’s Big Band 1, 4, 10)
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. Her career began in 1955 when she was just twenty-one, with the release of her debut album I Think Of You With Every Breath I Take, in which she was backed by several jazz musicians of renown. Despite this auspicious start, over the next close to thirty-five years, Marlene released only two albums and thus for all intents and purposes disappeared from the record-buying public’s mind. 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. The title track “I Give Up, I’m In Love” which has a bluesy feel, leads off the session. Franke’s band rocks out the beat which gives VerPlanck a platform to show who’s the boss. The band is featured on two additional tracks “The Way You Look Tonight” and “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was”. Both these tunes are swingers which Marlene uses to capture the essence of the numbers. On the former, Vache offers a terrific cornet solo, and on the latter, Marlene shows her vocal dexterity with some upper-register vocalizing that is succinct and uncomplicated. Marlene’s take on Philip Springer and Carolyn Leigh’s “How Little We Know” is a friskier version than the one Frank Sinatra recorded in 1958, but shows up well in comparison. Harry Allen’s solid tenor saxophone adds an interesting dimension to the interpretation.
Marlene’s musical interests takes inspiration from a wide variety of sources, thus the inclusion of two Stephen Sondheim originals namely “Good Thing Going” from his musical Merrily We Roll Along and “So Many People” from Saturday Night. The challenge for a singer who choses to interpret Sondheim’s material is that it generally does not follow the usual popular song format of iambic pentameter but is written to tell a story and to move the plot along in the underlying musical. These nuances present no problems for VanPlanck, as she tackles the material with confidence and assertiveness, as well as covering the required vocal range with expertise.
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.
TrackList: I Give Up, I’m In Love; Good Thing Going; How Little We Know; The Way You Look Tonight; I Love The Way You Dance; So Long My Love; Sleigh Ride In July; My Little Brown Book; Where Can I Go Without You; I Didn’t Know What Time It Was; You’re Really Someone To Write Home About; So Many People