Tag Archives: Vancouver

ORIGINALITY, WITH FEELING: ANGELA VERBRUGGE’S SPLENDID IMAGINATIONS

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.”

Angela visited New York City, but I missed the opportunity to ride the subway with her.

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!

A REMARKABLE MUSICAL FAMILY

Before you read a word of mine, I urge you to set aside fourteen minutes (multi-tasking discouraged) and enjoy this performance of SWEET SUE and GEORGIA CABIN by Evan Arntzen, reeds / vocal; his grandfather Lloyd Arntzen, reeds / vocal; his brother Arnt Arntzen, guitar / vocal; James Meger, string bass; Josh Roberts, guitar; Benji Bohannon, drums. Recorded at the Vancouver 2013 Jazz Band Ball by Bill Schneider.

There have been some families in jazz but it’s a fairly uncommon phenomenon; in this century I can think of the Marsalis clan, then an A B C — Au, Baker, and Caparone — and I am sure my readers will tell me of others I am unintentionally slighting.  But the Arntzen dynasty is truly impressive. (I’ve heard Evan at close range a number of times, and his talent is no fluke.)

The occasion for this celebration is my listening to two fairly recent CDs, both cheerfully swinging without tricks — and they both suggest that the Arntzens have are a musically functional family. (I’m old-fashioned enough to be in favor of families that not only don’t hate each other, but that create something supportive and lasting.)

The first CD, BLACKSTICK, offers a sweet story as well as authentic hot jazz.

BLACKSTICK

This CD is an expression of gratitude to Grandpa Lloyd Arntzen, who taught Evan and Arnt, as children, not only musical fundamentals but gave them a deep love of melodic improvisation and hot jazz.  And the best part of the CD is that it is not an elegy or eulogy — but that Lloyd plays and sings (even a Tom Waits paean to New Orleans) throughout the disc.  Aside from Evan, Lloyd, and Arnt, the  other musicians are Jennifer Hodge, string bass, Dan Ogilvie, guitar; Benji Bohannon, drums.  The sound of the music is comfortable, too: what could be better than recording it — with only two microphones — in Lloyd’s “basement rec. room,” where it all began?  The music is a happy and free evocation of the Apex Club Orchestra, Sidney Bechet with and without Mezz Mezzrow, and even Soprano Summit: moving from gentle serenades to ferocious swing.  Here you can hear the CD and — if you are so moved — purchase an actual copy or downloads.

INTRO BROS ARNTZEN

The second CD, cleverly titled INTRODUCING THE BROTHERS ARNTZEN, is just that, a compact but winning introduction to their musical world — which features not only a good deal of expert instrumental interplay but almost as much delightful harmony singing.

BROS ARNTZEN photo

The CD isn’t slick or slickly produced: it sounds most gratifyingly like the music dear friends might make in their living room for the enjoyment of a small group of like-minded people.  (It is properly advertised on the cover as MUSIC FOR DANCING.)

I am not a fan of manufactured country-and-western music, but this disc has a lovely “roots” flavor to it . . . and when I was only on the second track, a stomping VIPER MAD, which was followed by a truly touching HOME, I was convinced.  Jennifer Hodge is back on string bass, and Andrew Millar plays drums most effectively. Evan sticks to the clarinet, Arnt to the banjo, but this foursome creates a rich sound.  As before, you may hear / purchase here.

The Brothers aren’t entirely down-home antiquarians: they have their own fraternal Facebook page.  They have already brought a good deal of restorative music and good emotions into my world: welcome them into yours.

May your happiness increase!

“I NEVER KNEW”: GERRY GREEN’S CRESCENT CITY SHAKERS with SPECIAL GUESTS DAN BARRETT and CLINT BAKER

Usually ignorance isn’t bliss — but when the condition of Unknowing sounds like this (a cross between a jam session, the 1933 Chocolate Dandies, and an unissued Keynote Records session done in New Orleans) it’s a very good thing.

This band — to be more serious for a few words — was having a good time in Vancouver, B.C., on November 20, 2011, as part of the Vancouver Jazz Dance festival.  Its regular personnel includes leader Gerry Green on reeds, Bob Pelland on piano, Jim Armstrong on trombone and vocal, Bill Dixon on banjo, and the very solid Dave Brown on string bass.  That would be enough for most hearers, but the two guests were truly special: Dan Barrett on trumpet, trombone, and vocal; Clint Baker on drums.

Here they are contradicting the title of the song — I NEVER KNEW.  You don’t learn to play like this in school, and there’s nothing ignorant about this music:

Thanks to the elusive but expert for capturing this performance and others with such skill!