That classy sentinel songstress, Marlene VerPlanck, is back with another album of perfectly chosen songs. As always, she has surrounded herself with top musicians and the results are definitive. With the likes of Tedd Firth and Mike Renzi alternating on piano, and revered musicians like Jay Leonhart and Boots Maleson on bass, Houston Person on tenor sax along with Ron Vincent on drums and Claudio Roditi on trumpet, this disc is a winner in VerPlanck's extensive catalog. Add to it all the late Billy VerPlanck’s refined arrangements on five beautiful Carolyn Leigh cuts, and it doesn’t get much better. Marlene deftly devoted herself to preserving the American songbook and still sounds as fresh as when she first sang backup for Frank Sinatra—and Kiss! Her discography reflects all the jazz classics. Her alto remains sweet with a seamless, no-frills delivery that still gives oldies a fresh breath. Her latest album, Ballads … mostly, is no exception. Brimming with delightful odes to Tin Pan Alley, it opens with the Harry Warren/Mack Gordon rarity, “I Wish I Knew,” with Firth on piano, and sets the tone for the 14 great songs that follow. Since the CD is all highlights, there is only space here for a few mentions. Arranged by Billy VerPlanck, “It Amazes Me” is in a league of its own, here with with Renzi at the piano and Leonhart’s expert bass. “There Will Never Be Another You” features a sublime solo riff by Person that brings a wistful perspective to this classic. In a departure from the old, Ronny Whyte’s wonderful “Listen to the Piano Man” adds a terrific touch. Another standout is “I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life” (Cy Coleman/ Joseph A. McCarthy) that deserves serious attention.This is a golden album of gems one might expect from Tony Bennett.
November 1, 2013