The Mood I’m In (Audiophile Records)

Marlene VerPlanck

Released November 15, 2015

DownBeat Five-Star Review




Marlene VerPlanck was born in New Jersey – her family had an Italian restaurant and she worked there growing up, and was as renowned in the kitchen as she was on stage. She got into the music business at the tail end of the Swing Era – there wasn’t much big band action by the early 1950s but she caught on with Charlie Spivak’s orchestra and impressed the boys in the band with her singing and her cooking. She fell in love with J Billy VerPlanck, one of the trombonists; they moved up to the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and were married within a short time. Billy was a brilliant man, the love of her life, spent his time arranging her music and much of her professional life. He passed away several years ago after an almost magical sixty-year marriage.
VerPlanck hit the jackpot the first time she recorded – Savoy producer Ozzie Cadena assembled an all-star band for a then-unknown singer – Joe Wilder, Herbie Mann, Hank Jones, Wendell Marshall and Kenny Clarke. She worked around New York for several years and then bookings dropped off with the advent of rock-and-roll. She was fortunately prepared, as she went to work in the studios. New York was the center of the advertising business in those days and a singer like Marlene could work all the time recording jingles; she and Billy worked enough to buy a beautiful home in New Jersey. She was most famous for the “M-M Good” slogan for Campbell’s soup and the “Aah” that closed out Michelob commercials.
The revival of interest in the Great American Songbook came at the perfect time for her – the jingle business was phased out by changes in technology and the decentralization of the ad business. She just went back to what she did before and was as busy as the wanted to be for the rest of her life. She joined Audiophile records in the 1970s and was a tremendous asset to the label – she was an inveterate tune sleuth, digging up album loads of neglected or unrecorded numbers, of uniformly high quality. In addition, she worked all the time, including an annual month-long tour of the United Kingdom, and sold a lot of CDs on tour and at her New York and New Jersey jobs.
Marlene finished her career on a high note – her final album, The Mood I’m In (Audiophile ACD-348) won five-star ratings from both DownBeat and Jazz Journal – a rare accomplishment for a standup singer.

She died January 14, 2018. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November, 2017 but continued to work until the effort necessary to travel to the club and sing took everything out of her.

Track Listing:

1. Mood I’m In (Pete King / Paul Francis Webster) 3:39

2. Me and the Blues (Ted Koehler / Harry Warren) 5:39

3. Free and Easy (Henry Mancini / Bobby Troup) 2:51

4. It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dream (Duke Ellington / Don George / Johnny Hodges) 4:20

5. Certain People (John Bunch / Ronny Whyte) 5:01

6. I Want to Talk About You (Billy Eckstine) 4:22

7. Come on Strong (Sammy Cahn / James Van Heusen) 3:55

8. All Too Soon (Duke Ellington / Carl Sigman) 4:29

9. Medley: It Started All over Again/The Second Time Around (Sammy Cahn / Bill Carey / Carl Fischer / James Van Heusen) 4:02

10. This Is Always (Mack Gordon / Harry Warren) 4:48

11. My Kind of Trouble Is You (Benny Carter / Paul Vandervoort II) 3:52

12. Too Late Now (Burton Lane / Alan Jay Lerner) 2:53


Marlene VerPlanck: vocal

John Pearce: piano

Paul Morgan: bass

Bobby Worth: drums

Mark Nightingale: trombone

Andy Panayi: saxophones, flute

Recorded March, 2015 in England


Marlene VerPlanck has been exploring the Great American Songbook since her days singing in the bands of Charlie Spivak, Tex Beneke and Tommy Dorsey. She’s contributed backing vocals to a legion of artists, including Sinatra and KISS, and has sung on demos for the writers in the Brill Building. But it’s her work as a solo artist that has brought her lasting fame. On this, her 24th album, the singer continues to showcase her impeccable phrasing, sinuous melodic sense and flawless diction. She’s a quiet vocalist, but she conveys an encyclopedia of emotion with every word.

“Come On Strong,” a Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen obscurity, is a case in point. It’s a celebration of carnal love, and when she whispers the titular lyrics you can feel the growl behind her purr. Bobby Worth’s drums and Andy Panayi’s saxophone add to the subtle sizzle.

VerPlanck’s voice is like a summer breeze, warmly caressing the simple, poetic lyric, especially when delivering the pensive vocal that enhances Duke Ellington’s “It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dream.” Mark Nightingale’s muted trombone complements her vocal with a smoky, restless solo.

VerPlanck’s playful phrasing is evident on the title track. She plays with the rhythm, singing before and behind the beat, taking the song home with a cluster of frisky extended notes. At 82, she still has most of her range, lending these timeless standards a heartwarming grace.

j. poet (DownBeat)