Tag Archives: Marlene VerPlanck

ONE TREAT AFTER ANOTHER: DARYL SHERMAN, “LOST IN A CROWDED PLACE”

Daryl Sherman‘s new CD, LOST IN A CROWDED PLACE (Audiophile), is just splendid, and I don’t exaggerate.  I’d thought that with her most recent disc, MY BLUE HEAVEN, she’d reached a real peak of intimacy and swinging expressiveness.  But this newest recording offers even more expansive delights.  And, by the way, don’t let the title put you off: the music is not morose.

Daryl, once again, presents very heartfelt dramatic vignettes — a dozen.  It’s a tasting menu for the ears, the brain, and the heart, and one can dine at this particular restaurant over and over again.  No shock at the multi-digit bill, no caloric woes.

Daryl’s colleagues — in various permutations — are our hero Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet; Don Vappie on guitar, banjo, and vocal; Jesse Boyd, string bass; Boots Maleson, string bass on RAINBOW HILL only.

They are a splendid crew, but I want to say something about the pianist, who also happens to be Ms. Sherman.  Daryl’s playing here is so fine that I occasionally found myself distracted from what she was singing or one of the instrumentalists was playing to admire its restrained elegance that never lost the beat.  Think, perhaps, of Hank Jones or of Dick Katz.  And when Daryl accompanies herself, she is — without multiple-personality disorder — a pianist who is kind to the singer and a singer who doesn’t overwhelm the pianist.  Her opening instrumental duet with Jon-Erik on the title song is wonderful — the way it should be done.

Then there’s Daryl the composer / lyricist: both selves in evidence on the opening song, THE LAND OF JUST WE TWO, a song that could easily pass as a kinder, gentler Frishbergian romance.  Her lyrics to Turk Mauro’s improvisation over TANGERINE that he called TURKQUOISE are nimble and witty.

There’s Daryl the song-scholar: offering not only the rarely heard verse to STARS FELL ON ALABAMA but the never-heard verse to IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN, bringing forth Barbara Carroll’s LOST IN A CROWDED PLACE — with sweetly anachronistic lyrics (from 1956) by Irving Caesar that speak of finding a dime for the pay phone — and Billy VerPlanck’s RAINBOW HILL, here offered as a fond tribute to Daryl’s friend, Billy’s wife, singer Marlene.

There’s Daryl the comedienne, never resorting to “humor,” which quickly wears thin, but underpinning her vocal delivery with an unexpressed giggle.  I don’t know that it’s possible to sing and grin simultaneously, but there are places on AT SUNDOWN where I’d swear it was happening, and even more so as Daryl negotiates her way with great style through THE LORELEI.  It’s not comedy, exactly, that uplifts many of the songs on this disc, but it is Daryl’s pleasure at being able to be the vehicle through which the music passes to us. EVERYTHING BUT YOU is not just an Ellington song to her, but a witty, rueful commentary on romance.

Going back to my start: when I first heard MY BLUE HEAVEN, I thought, “This is the way Daryl really sounds in the most welcoming circumstances — no debatable amplification system, no patrons with glasses full of ice, no waitstaff asking, “Who has the parmigiana?”   Her singing on CROWDED PLACE is even more subtly compelling, if that’s possible.  I won’t compare her to other singers: she is herself, and that’s reassuring.  The recording by David Stocker is faithful without being clinical or chilly, so that her remarkable sound — “sounds,” I should say — come through whole.

I would have singers study her phrasing on this disc — that wonderful science of balancing song and conversation, adherence to the melody and improvisation.  How she does it from song to song, from chorus to chorus, is something quite remarkable.

And Daryl presents herself as not “just a singer,” which is to say, someone trained in singing and performance practice who has brought a dozen lead sheets to the studio, but someone with great (quietly dramatic) skill at making each song its own complete emotional and intellectual statement.  Each of the twelve performances is like a fully-realized skit or an aural short story, and no one sounds like the other in some monotonous way.  Consider the sweet — and I mean that word seriously — duet (a duet of many colors, shifting like a long sunset) between Daryl and Don on YOU GO TO MY HEAD, a song that I would have thought done to a crisp, or the HELLO, DOLLY! world Daryl and Co. create on NEW SUN IN THE SKY.  These are memorable performances, each one with its own shadings.  And the mood is often a wise tenderness, something rare and needed in our world.

Daryl’s colleagues are inspiring on their own, but at times rise to new and surprising creative heights.  Boots Maleson is her long-time colleague, and his one offering, RAINBOW HILL, reminds me of  how beautifully he plays, both pizzicato and arco.  More to the forefront is bassist Jesse Boyd, eloquent and swinging.  I have the privilege of seeing and hearing Jon-Erik Kellso often in New York City, and I know him best as the heroic leader of the EarRegulars, but here he is a superb accompanist as well as delivering some melodic choruses that startled me with their beauty, or providing the perfect echoes in THE LORELEI.  I’d only known Don Vappie at a distance, but his rhythm guitar is more than welcome, his solos remind me of a down-home Charlie Byrd, his banjo is splendid, and his vocal duet on YOU GO TO MY HEAD is touching, loose, and inspiring.  Fine incisive notes by Carol Sloane, who knows, also.

But this is Daryl’s masterful offering.  I only apologize for writing at such length that some readers might have been delayed from purchasing several copies.  LOST IN A CROWDED PLACE is that rewarding, and you can purchase it here.  Thank you, Daryl.

May your happiness increase!

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MORE FROM HARRY ALLEN AND FRIENDS at FEINSTEIN’S (June 10, 2012)

People are surely known by the company they keep.  Harry Allen is not only a splendid creative musician and a deeply gracious person — he also has superb friends.  Three of them are in his Quartet — Chuck Riggs (drums), Joel Forbes (string bass), and Rossano Sportiello (piano).

This delicious combination took the stage on Sunday, June 10, 2012, at Feinstein’s (the comfortable club nestled within Loews Regency, 540 Park Avenue, New York City). Harry and his friends were there thanks to Mat and Rachel Domber, the generous spirits responsible for so much good music through Arbors Records and live concerts.

It was a privilege to be there, and the Beloved and I basked in the warm, friendly atmosphere of that room — and the warm creativity of the players. And for the first time, I was allowed to video-record the evening, so consider yourself invited to the extraordinary musical scene created magically by Harry and friends — with surprises to come.  (In the house were Dan Morgenstern, Daryl Sherman, Marlene VerPlanck, Gwen Calvier and her beau Joe, and a few surprises . . . )

I posted the first glorious set of that evening here.  Delicious, isn’t it?

Two of Harry’s friends joined the band for a second helping — Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet), well-known to JAZZ LIVES, and the majestic Joe Temperley (baritone sax), whom I am honored to have here.

They began their explorations with BLUE SKIES:

Only bands that are this far from being lost — in any way — can play PERDIDO so wonderfully:

Joe offered us a beautifully mobile THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU:

For his part, Jon-Erik made us feel good with a romping THE LADY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU:

And, as Louis would write at the end of a page, S’all — but there will be more to come.

May your happiness increase.

WORDS AND MUSIC FOR BARBARA LEA (St. Peter’s Church, April 16, 2012)

We miss Barbara Lea, and the gently loving memorial service held last night at St. Peter’s Church didn’t make our loss any smaller.

She gave us so much music for nearly fifty years that it seemed only proper that her friends and musical colleagues (one and the same) crowded the room to do her honor in words and music.

What Daryl Sherman — the evening’s most empathic, witty host — called Barbara’s “extended family” was there both in substance and in spirit.

For those who weren’t there, a thirty-two bar synopsis.

For words: Jan Wallman spoke of having Barbara perform at her club countless times, shaping her program to the individuals in the audience; George Wein remembered her as that remarkable creature in 1951, a “Wellesley girl who sang jazz”: Roger Shore told us how “the song came first” for Barbara; Jack Kleinsinger recalled a memorable “Highlights in Jazz” concert and surprised me by saying that the cornetist Johnny Windhurst had been his first mentor in jazz; Loren Schoenberg’s tribute had him thinking “WHAT WOULD BARBARA LEA DO?” in every situation, so fine was her critical vision; Nat Hentoff’s remarks focused on Barbara’s recordings; David Hadju recalled not only Barbara but the late Roy Hemmings; Lewis Chambers reminded us that what looked easy for her was the result of hard work; Frannie Huxley’s story of Barbara at college brought us a girl we hadn’t known; Peter Wagenaar’s story of falling hard for Barbara and her music from a distance was more than touching, as was Annie Dinerman’s reading of Barbara’s lyric for MOTHER, MAY I GO OUT TO SWIM.

For music: Ronny Whyte sang and played THANKS FOR THE MEMORY with lyrics I had not known; Joyce Breach offered Alec Wilder’s BLACKBERRY WINTER, which George Wein followed by singing and playing SUGAR (in memory of Lee Wiley as well as Barbara).  Marlene VerPlanck tenderly created IS IT RAINING IN NEW YORK? holding spellbound a New York audience on a cloudless night; Sue Matsuki made us laugh with FRASIER (THE SENSUOUS LION) and Karen Oberlin made BITTERSWEET resonate for Barbara and Billy Strayhorn.  Daryl Sherman wickedly delivered the naughty LORELEI, all of the laughs intact; Dick Miller played a strong medley of LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE and OH, YOU CRAZY MOON; Steve Ross slowed down YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO for voice and piano; Bob Dorough emphasized HOW LITTLE WE KNOW; Melissa Hamilton caressed I’M GLAD THERE IS YOU.  Throughout, lovely support and solos were floated by us from pianist Tedd Firth, bassist Boots Maleson, guitarist James Chirillo, and tenor saxophonist Harry Allen — all great singers of melodies.

But the stage belonged to Barbara — in a photo montage over our heads that showed her with Duke Ellington and Morey Amsterdam, with Johnny Windhurst, Cutty Cutshall and Eddie Barefield, with Dick Sudhalter, Daryl Sherman, Harry Allen, and Keith Ingham; Bob Haggart, Larry Eanet, James Chirillo — and many of Barbara and her dearest friend Jeanie Wilson, the two of them grinning like mad, fashionable or down-home.

And the musical interlude of videos by Barbara had great power — singing Bix and Hoagy, in front of a late Benny Goodman band, having herself a time, pacing through Noel Coward and a dramatically slowed-down BEGIN THE BEGUINE.

All of us send thanks to the people who made Barbara’s life better — Jeanie and her husband Bill, their friend and Barbara’s, Robert “Junk” Ussery, and the diligent, gracious Daryl and Melissa Hamilton . . .

In her last years, Barbara didn’t speak.  But her voice still rings:

A MEMORIAL SERVICE TO CELEBRATE MISS BARBARA LEA (April 16, 2012)

We miss Barbara Lea, who died at the end of 2011.

Her dear friend Jeanie Wilson has planned a memorial service for Barbara — full of deeply felt music and tart stories in honor of “The High Priestess of Popular Song.”

It will take place on Monday, April 16, 2012, at 7:00 PM, at St. Peter’s Church (54th St. & Lexington Ave., New York City), with Barbara’s good friend, singer Daryl Sherman, as host.  The performers and speakers will include Bob Dorough, Steve Ross, Marlene VerPlanck, Ronny Whyte, Melissa Hamilton, Jack Kleinsinger, George Wein, Joyce Breach, Roger Schore, Jan Wallman, Karen Oberlin, Lewis Chambers, Sue Matsuki, Tedd Firth, Harry Allen, Annie Dinerman, Dick Miller, The Speakeasy Jazz Babies, James Chirillo, Boots Maleson, David Hajdu, and others.

W.B. Yeats writes “Say that my glory was I had such friends.”  I hope to see you at the memorial service — to let Barbara know just how much she is loved, missed, remembered.  And although memorial services remind us that the object of our affections is no longer with us, we go out thinking of that person with something deeper than funereal gloom.