One of the major airlines, I can’t recall which one, plays a recorded announcement, “We know you have lots of choices about which airline to fly, and we are glad you chose us,” which seems — even though manufactured — genuine, even winsome.
The singer-composer-lyricist Angela Verbrugge is not a major corporation, for which we are grateful, but some of the same logic applies. The listener who is even mildly aware of jazz singing has so many choices to choose from — discs and streams and downloads, oh my! — that choosing one might seem difficult. But Angela is so talented in so many ways, and her work is so human (by which I mean artful yet personal, full of feeling and swing) that it would be a pity to pass it by.
“Good” is no longer a strong word in the vocabulary of praise. But Angela has good humor, good sense, and good taste, a rare combination. Although she has a deep romantic streak, she is also a hilariously pungent comedian / social critic / swing psychologist:
and . . .
Here’s the romantic Angela:
As you can tell, Angela is also a born storyteller: each of her songs is a complete compact drama, and they add up to a delightful emotional variety. We who grew up on long-playing records often grouse that CDs are too long-playing, because the artists, with the best intentions, don’t consider the needs of the restless audience. When LOVE FOR CONNOISSEURS was over, I said aloud to the apartment walls, “Is that it? Is that all?” and there’s no better tribute than wanting more.
If you’ve listened to sixteen bars of any of the performances above, you’ve also heard that Angela has a remarkably winning voice. She can be wry; she can be somber, but her natural mode is a quirky upbeat lyrical one, a bird perching on one branch before trying another out. She’s not a diva with a four-octave range, but her voice is refreshingly human: she has something to tell us in each phrase and in her clear diction (even at rapid tempos) the message comes through. I also delight in her very charming vibrato — never too much — that conveys feeling without writing it in capital letters. In short, she is a pleasure to listen to, sometimes lemony, sometimes warm and embracing.
You say, “That’s not enough! We want more!” Well, she is the sole composer of three of the dozen songs on this CD, and the funny, playful lyricist for the other nine, which are composed over jazz originals by Neal Miner, Ray Gallon, Miles Black, Nick Hempton, and others. As a writer, she loves to take risks with rhyme, and they pay off, sometimes like Chaplin skating and not falling, but her sometimes goofy courage is exhilarating. And the themes include a paean to corn on the cob and the fellow who brings it; another old-fashioned fellow who holds doors open for her; a portrait of Manhattan; a meditation on the quarantine. She has a nimble imagination: it’s curious in both ways.
Her accompanying band — Miles Black, piano; Dave Say, reeds; Jodi Proznick, string bass; Joel Fountain, drums — understands her music, so they support and applaud but don’t overwhelm. Melodists in the best modern-traditional way. Good sounds. (Well-recorded, too.)
If all of this sounds like a bouquet, I am not related to Angela — we never met when she was in New York City not that long ago — but I thought her first CD was lovely and this one seems even better to me, a genuine expression of a likeable swinging inventive personality. LOVE FOR CONNOISSEURS is head and shoulders above the usual flood of CDs.
It’s being issued on Gut String Records (a kind of jazz Good Housekeeping Seal for those who know): you can find out more details here.
You’ll love it. Purchase a disc or download the music, and you’re a connoisseur.
AND — this just in. Some extra goodness from the studio, behind the scenes:
and . . .