April 29 Free Concert at Davidson by Marlene VerPlanck

Legendary big band singer Marlene VerPlanck and the Charlotte-based Rick Bean Trio will join the Davidson College Jazz Ensemble for a public performance on Friday evening, April 29. There is no charge to attend the show, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Duke Family Performance Hall.

The concert will be a must-see for fans of vocal jazz and big band music. It will open with numbers featuring the Jazz Ensemble, followed by several intimate pieces featuring VerPlanck and the Rick Bean Trio. The highlight of the evening will be a collaboration between VerPlanck and the Jazz Ensemble, playing a variety of songs from her personal book.

Widely hailed for her clear, smooth voice, VerPlanck has been a noted performer in the fields of jazz, big band and popular music for a half-century. She has performed many times in the Charlotte area, most frequently with her friend the late Loonis McGlohon. She described him as “one of my Renaissance men….He could do everything and do it fabulously well.”

VerPLanck’s career began in the 1950s with studio work with greats like Perry Como, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. She teamed up with big band musicians Charlie Spivak and Tex Beneke in the 1950s, and met her husband, the late composer/trombonist Billy VerPlanck, during a stint with the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. He created all her arrangements for the next 52 years, until his death in 2009.

In the 1960s, Marlene VerPlanck was perhaps most widely heard in commercials as the voice behind jingles for products like Campbell’s Soup, Michelob beer and Winston cigarettes.

She and Billy settled in Clifton, N.J., and recorded their first of many albums together, “A Breath of Fresh Air,” in 1968. They produced a total of 21 albums, including the 1983 Glenn Miller Orchestra album “In The Digital Mood,” which sold more than 100,000 copies and was the first big band album to go gold.

Her most recent album is titled “One Dream at a Time.” A writer for “Jazz Journal” wrote of it, “the bell-like freshness of her voice is as good as it has ever been and she brushes aside the decades with ease. She sounds so fresh, in fact, that it is tempting to think that there might be a Dorian Gray-like tape in the attic. But that suggests a pact with the devil and she is much too nice for that.”

Over the years, VerPlanck has appeared on radio shows like “Alec Wilder’s American Popular Songs” and “The American Popular Singers.” In late March NPR’s American Popular Songs series reran a segment featuring VerPlanck, which was hosted by Alec Wilder and Loonis McGlohon.

VerPlanck has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Rainbow Room in New York City, and has appeared on “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Today Show.” She continues to tour widely, and has just completed her annual month-long tour of England, which always receives rave reviews from the local press.

VerPlanck said the secret to her half-century career in the field is taking a voice lesson every week from her teacher, Maria Farnsworth. “Singing is the hardest instrument of all,” VerPlanck said. “It’s easy to get into bad habits, but Maria is there to constantly oversee me and help me avoid them.”

In addition to the performance at Davidson, she and the Rick Bean Trio will perform the following evening, Saturday, April 30, at CPCC’s Tate Hall. Reservations for that performance are available by calling 704-343-4010.

For information on her appearance at Davidson, call 704-894-2848 or 704-894-2354.


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Buck Lawrimore