If there’s a jazz voice that best expresses springtime, it belongs to Marlene VerPlanck. Never mind that she’s in her 80s.
She’s still perky and she makes you glad when she sings, regardless of the lyrics. There’s no decrepitude in her voice. She has class. Throughout “The Mood I’m In” (Audiophile), you are thankful for her skills, such as her bright, enthusiastic delivery of the title song composed by Paul Francis Webster and Pete King. Even her slow blues performances (for example, “Me and the Blues” by Ted Koehler and Harry Warren) take on an optimistic character. In addition, she sings Duke Ellington in a way the maestro would have dug: the ballads “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dream” and “All Too Soon,” with VerPlanck’s feeling and phrasing casting a spell.
There are 12 performances in all, recorded last spring the week after VerPlanck’s annual month-long tour of England.
VerPlanck is accompanied throughout by pianist John Pearce, bassist Paul Morgan and drummer Bobby Worth, with saxophonist and flutist Andy Panayi added on four tracks and trombonist Mark Nightingale added on five others. Billy VerPlanck, the singer’s late husband, was a trombonist and arranger. Perhaps that’s what inspires Nightingale’s jaunty accompaniment and soloing.
Likewise, Panayi is an asset with clean and soulful flute solos on “Free and Easy” and “I Want to Talk About You” and dazzling sax solos on “Come on Strong” and “This is Always.”
This is VerPlanck’s 24th album. She got her start as a vocalist with the Charlie Spivak band and, later, the Tex Beneke band, followed by a brief stint with the Dorsey Brothers band, where she met her husband-to-be. She recorded her first album in 1955. She went on to become a studio singer, backing various stars, and singing commercials before her career as a solo artist resumed in 1979.
Correspondent Owen Cordle
“The Mood I'm In”