Fleece Jazz Tribute
Marlene VerPlanck – 11/11/1933 – 14/1/2018
To us, Marlene was a kind of perfection. We loved the way she presented each song, with a little
background story. Her intonation and pronunciation were so good as to be unnoticed. But more
than anything, her love of the words and her ability to tell a story made each gig a delight.
Marlene first played at Fleece Jazz in March 1999, with the Roy Babbington Trio. What a revelation!
Her husband Billy was travelling with her, and she was using his arrangements. It turned out that the
pianist was a very fine dep, seeing Billy’s complex charts for the first time. Scary, but well done.
She last played with us in March 2016. I was charged with writing the website blurb for the gig:
“…She may be the most accomplished interpreter of popular material
performing today…” – The New York Times
Marlene VerPlanck is the finest Great American Songbook exponent I have ever
heard live. Her articulation is so good that while you hear every nuance of every
word, there is no exaggeration or falseness, and her storytelling is superb. And
yet, she is willing to take risks with a new song. Throughout her career, Marlene
has stuck to her guns, paying loving care to the great standards and new songs
from our finest composers. Songwriter Hugh Martin ("Have Yourself a Merry
Little Christmas," etc.) expressed it well: "We know our songs are safe in the
hands of Marlene VerPlanck, and she will sing them better than anyone else."
She uses wonderful arrangements, mostly from her late husband, Billy. Billy did
not write simple stuff, and only a band as good as the one she brings can play it
We miss her. My wife and I would yearly see her in far flung venues in the UK as well as at our club,
and once in New Jersey with the Harry Allen orchestra. We have her CDs to keep us warm.
Roberta Sheps and David Lyons
Fleece Jazz: http://www.fleecejazz.org.uk