Welcome Angela Verbrugge, whose talents are not narrow, nor are they limited to her lovely voice. Listen, and be delighted.
Much of the contemporary music criticism I read praises the “innovative,” “cutting-edge,” “and “adventurous,” sounds that may fall abruptly on my ears. Angela’s music doesn’t assault; rather, it brings joy.
You can hear that Angela is certainly imaginative, but her singing rests securely on deep emotional understanding. She understands the song, not only as notes and syllables on paper, but also the heart-messages it sends us. She conveys tenderness, thoughtfulness, wit, and ardor: emotions and perceptions aimed right at us through her very human voice, its phrase-ending vibrato signifying a sweet earnestness.
When I received a copy of Angela’s debut CD — she’d been recommended to me by a Vancouver musical friend — I turned first to ALL TOO SOON, and was delighted and — in the best way — mildly startled. Nothing abrupt that would have violated the Ellington – Carl Sigman creation, but it was as if someone had gently shifted the furniture by a matter of inches while I slept. I had the same feeling I did when listening to Jimmie Rowles thoughtfully prowl his way through a song known for decades, making it new by building new surprises in from beneath. And in a world of studio-modernism and thudding bass lines, to hear her walk serenely through the musical world of Ray Gallon, piano; Cameron Brown, string bass; Anthony PInciotti, drums, is reassuring as well as elating.
But back to ALL TOO SOON for a moment. I sent Angela a note of admiration and asked her how she had gently tinkered with that song to shift its center of gravity so tellingly. She told me, “I created a ‘verse’ using the bridge/ B section lyrics and elements of the A section melody, and it is sung out of time and then we go into 3/4 waltz time until near the end I bookend it with a more heartbroken take on the ‘verse.’ I brought it Miles Black to arrange in 3/4 and Ray Gallon helped me to tweak and finalize it to fall in a way that felt great; when you move a piece from 4/4 to 3/4 here are some options and massaging to get it to sit comfortably.” Her explanation, as well as her performance, show her remarkable musical intelligence.
She performs some of the same magic on familiar standards on this disc — LOVE WALKED IN, THIS COULD BE THE START OF SOMETHING BIG, THE MOON WAS YELLOW, SPEAK SOFTLY, LOVE — but the disc is much more than “Here’s my original take on songs everyone sings.”
Here is another affecting realization, another interlude — her version of A NIGHT IN TUNISIA with lyrics by Raymond Levey, thus INTERLUDE. Fervent yet spare:
But that’s not all. Not that I wouldn’t welcome a whole disc of Angela, rueful thrush singing her lonely song from a fragile branch. She is a witty songwriter, drawing on Cole Porter, Gilbert and Sullivan, and Johnny Mercer for inspiration and rapid-fire rhymes, occasionally resembling a less vinegary Dave Frishberg. And before more words fill the page, here‘s Angela’s website, and here you can buy or download the CD.
Here’s Angela’s I’M RUNNING LATE, her lyrics to Ray Gallon’s THAT’S THE QUESTION — a hilarious downhill slalom she negotiates with style:
The disc features three more originals by Angela. I will feel much better about this decade when I hear new singers take up her songs . . . as well as modeling themselves on her warm, lively approach. Those aspiring artists will take their own paths to passion and control, how to convey deep meanings without resorting to capital letters and bright primarily colors. But those wise enough to take inspiration from Angela will find her art won’t outwear its welcome. I am not the first to celebrate Angela Verbrugge, nor will I be the last. But her art is her own, and she offers rare pleasures.
May your happiness increase!