REVIEWS

"Quirky with a swing!" George Harris, Jazz Weekly

"Angela Verbrugge gives singers like Lorraine Feather a run for their money with her witty lyrics on her originals that area mixed with some clever covers. Teamed with Ray Gallon/p, Cameron Brown/b and Anthony Pinciotti/dr, she is fun and quirky on her bopping “I’m Running Late” and cleverly swings on a Latin-grooved “How Did I Know This Was The End?” while her “You’re Almost Perfect” is both hip and a hoot. She is wispy and romantic on her title tune, she slithers for a coy “Love Walked In” and oozes on Duke Ellington’s “All Too Soon” while putting a rose between her teeth and doing a table dance on the sauntering “Si Tu Pudieras Quererme.” In the Archie Comics of life, this lady is a bubbly Betty." 

"A perfect album: she makes all of her chosen material sound magical. A gem of a vocalist." Raul da Gama, Toronto Music Report

This is a stunning debut album for Angela Verbrugge. Simply stunning! How could it not be when Miss Verbrugge ignites The Night We Couldn’t Say Good Night by blasting off into the appropriately rarefied atmosphere of Bebop with her proverbial nod to the great Eddie Jefferson and Jon Hendricks? “I’m Running Late”, Miss Verbrugge’s own composition (with pianist Ray Gallon), is an effervescent and racy opening and a perfect vehicle to establish her credentials – some might say, in keeping with words we have become accustomed to hearing: “street-cred”. The original song is a deceptively easy-looking piece on the page, but keeping the scatter-shot of its melodic ground-rhythm pulsating meaningfully and building the slow-to-raging burn crescendo over several minutes requires advanced levels of technical proficiency. 

Clearly this is the kind of vocalastics that Miss Verbrugge has in spades. Still, to begin an album – any album – at this kind of pace is daring. It sets bar very high for the vocalist and she simply sails over it and soars thereafter with one magical work after the other, albeit none with the kind of fireworks with which she begins the album (perhaps that’s another album for which may have to wait a little longer). Nevertheless, passionate accounts in song continue on works of considerable nuance and, in places, technical complexity. Each song is like low-hanging fruit, lusciously ripe for the picking, so all you have to take your pick. However, even a “perfect” album may feature some songs that are more magical than others. Some that qualify are certainly “Love Walked In”, “All Too Soon”, “Interlude (A Night in Tunisia” and “The Night We Couldn’t Say Good Night” this latter one penned by Miss Verbrugge herself. 

There is much to recommend those songs. This begins with beautifully crafted arrangements in beguiling variety and sensuousness. Miss Verbrugge addresses each with the breathtakingly, absolutely natural and unaffected purity of her voice, heard in every lovingly caressed phrase. She makes all of her chosen material sound magical – the lesser-known gems and the more familiar material. Listening to the way Miss Verbrugge seductively bends the notes of the melody on “All Too Soon” and “Interlude” is matched by the memorable manner in which she sculpts the sustained invention of “Interlude”. There is not a wrong accent or articulation; never a wrong turn throughout this – and the rest of the – repertoire. 

One suspects that the gentle (and firmly guiding) hand throughout this recording process, of the inimitable Cameron Brown. Already wise to the ways of vocalastics from accompanying the great Sheila Jordan, Mr Brown is not only perhaps one of greatest masters of the contrabass, but a prodigious – albeit unassuming – producer. He is known to have brought with him pianist Ray Gallon and drummer Anthony Pinciotti too. Together these musicians seem completely attuned to Miss Verbrugge’s vision and artistry. That – and the fact that Miss Verbrugge is a gem of a vocalist – is what makes this an album to absolutely die for. 

 "Conspicuously good taste!" Andrew Gilbert, JazzTimes Magazine (Apr 2019 print edition)

"Angela Verbrugge seems to understand the importance of a first impression, as her debut album offers a wide-angle look at her manifold talents without feeling forced or showy. A singer nurtured on the British Columbia jazz scene, the Vancouver-based Verbrugge possesses a winsome, brightly burnished, pliable voice, ample emotional intelligence, considerable songwriting skills, and conspicuously good taste. With top-notch accompanists—Ray Gallon on piano, Anthony Pinciotti on drums, and Cameron Brown on bass—she delivers 13 songs, including four originals, that cover a lot of territory. 

It takes some moxie to lead with two pieces of her own—the steeplechase collaboration with Gallon, “I’m Running Late (That’s the Question),” and the sultry title track—before offering a wondrous version of the Gershwins' “Love Walked In” complete with oft-overlooked verse. The album’s sequencing often amplifies a song’s impact, as when Steve Allen’s rousing “This Could Be the Start of Something Big” follows her original “You’re Almost Perfect.” 

Verbrugge makes the most lasting impression with her sprints into left field, as on the Latin-tinged “Si Tu Pudieras Quererme,” a Spanish translation of “You and the Night and the Music.” And she gets major points for interpreting Nino Rota’s haunting theme from The Godfather. While Larry Kusick’s lyrics for “Speak Softly, Love” are as forgettable as Rota’s melody is indelible, Verbrugge makes a convincing case that the song deserves further attention. A tango-inflected arrangement of “The Moon Is Yellow” doesn’t fare quite as well, but she closes the album with another strong original, “How Did I Know This Was the End?,” a Nat Adderley-ish relationship kiss-off co-written with Gerry Teahan. With so many smart decisions and memorable tracks, I’m eager to hear what Verbrugge does next.

"...a literate and articulate song-writer as well as a fine singer." Jonathon Woolf, MusicWeb International

It’s not every day that Will Friedwald writes liner notes so he must like Angela Verbrugge, four of whose originals grace this 13-track album. With her companionable trio of Ray Gallon (piano), Cameron Brown (bass) and Anthony Pinciotti (drums) she laid down this album back in August 2017. I like to see this disc as a kind of narrative arc in which themes of love, longing, loss, and the question of time are ever-present companions. It’s no surprise, surely, that the disc opens with a head-spinning original called I’m Running Late and ends with her own How Did I Know This Was The End? An album with a bold, delineated - though often quizzically narrated - structure is a rare thing to find. 

That introductory piece, with her vocal-instrumental solo tongue-twisting its way through the witty lyrics has a Blossom Dearie-like stance; not quite as coy, maybe, but under no illusions. With its lightly Latin feel The Night We Couldn't Say Good Night hopes that love will work out and Ray Gallon’s crisp pianism lends lyric support over the springy rhythm. The teasing vocal introduction to All Too Soon – the vocal artist’s equivalent of Erroll Garner’s legerdemain and wrong-footing introductions – shows the deft qualities Verbrugge possesses and the vocal-and-arco-bass intro to her tune You’re Almost Perfect (note the inevitable qualification in the title) unveils a recitative of unsettled love. The bittersweet lines ‘You may not be the right one/But you give me such a thrill’ might almost be the beating heart of this disc. 

There’s a splendidly up-tempo Steve Allen piece called This Could Be the Start of Something Big (but again note the ‘could’) whilst on the ‘Sarah Vaughan’ version ofA Night in Tunisia Gallon turns in a downward Monkish run. You and the Night and the Music takes on a slinky cut via the Spanish lyrics whereas there’s sprightly, almost Stride-like Gallon accompaniment in places on the French-language Plus je t’embrasse. There are some very astute arrangements which allow instruments to sit out, or incrementally to join in, as well as a pleasing variety of material and a good balance between originals and standards. I especially enjoyed the laid-back and evocative The Moon Was Yellow. 

If this album traces the flustered start of a relationship and finishes with the end of the affair it does so with a sure sense of emotional direction through the medium of well-selected and finely performed songs. Verbrugge is a literate and articulate song writer, as well as a fine singer, and someone to catch if she’s in your neck of the woods.

"Listen and be delighted. Her art is her own, and she offers rare pleasures." Michael Steinman, Jazz Lives 

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.” 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.  

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 modelling 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. 

"Angela infuses passion and emotion with each beautiful note." The Jazz Music Blog, Australia

“This very impressive debut album from vocalist Angela Verbrugge is a real treat... Angela infuses passion and emotion with each beautiful note. The trio of Ray Gallon on piano, Cameron Brown on bass and Anthony Pinciotti on drums provide fluid and sculptural jazz instrumentation that blends in perfectly and add a layered and cohesive style of contemporary jazz.” 

 "Angela lets her stunning vocals soar." The Record Journal

- THE RECORD-JOURNAL, Meridian, CT 
James Pasinski (JPSMusicBlog)

"...beautifully patient and timeless." Eponymous Review

- EPONYMOUS REVIEW
Laurie Fanelli, founder (Chicago, IL)

 "A vocal sound that's bright and optimistic and also full of depth and nuance." Will Friedwald, Author, Journalist, Playlist Curator

"...with a vocal sound that’s bright and optimistic and also full of depth and nuance - welcoming the light but without denying the existence of the darkness. ...I for one, am glad that the door opened and Angela Verbrugge came through it." 

- WILL FRIEDWALD in his liner notes for The Night We Couldn't Say Good Night
Music writer (The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Playboy), author of nine books including Jazz Singing, and the award-winning A Biographical Guie to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers. He is a curator for Apple Music.

"An album that reveals that Verbrugge is indeed the talented song stylist that rumour has announced in advance. <Her debut album offers> a solid foundation in entertainment, and the vocal jazz tradition. Love Walked In, Speak Softly, Love and A Night in Tunisia are highlights, performed with precision and swing." 

- IVAN ROD, Danish Jazz Blog