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POP AND JAZZ REVIEWS : Magic Missing in Ver Planck Workout

March 07, 1994|DON HECKMAN

Marlene Ver Planck has almost everything one could ask for in a jazz-based singer of classic American songs: a gorgeous, musically pliable sound, a solid understanding of the linkages between words and story, and a sure and steady feel for rhythm.

Working at the Jazz Bakery on Friday in one of her rare Los Angeles bookings, however, Ver Planck was missing one more important element: sufficient rehearsal time with her backup duo. No singer can completely overcome the problems inherent in inadequate preparation and the lack of a clear creative bond with accompanying musicians, and Ver Planck was no exception.

Pianist Bill Cunliffe and bassist Dave Carpenter are first-rate players who did a respectable job with Ver Planck's sometimes too-fussy and too-stylized arrangements. But the deep, symbiotic, almost sensual interaction between singer and accompanists that results in the most moving interpretations was simply not present, to Ver Planck's detriment.

Only during a few ballads--"Body and Soul," "Two for the Road" and "Skylark" were good examples--when Ver Planck was working solely with Cunliffe's piano, did one get a real sense of how superb the New Jersey-based performer can be. Other parts of the two-hour program, especially medleys of Gershwin and Ellington pieces and rhythm tunes such as "Nice and Easy," were pleasant enough, but bothersome for their failure to deliver the full gamut of Ver Planck's skills.

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