Marlene Verplanck 1933-2018

 marlene-by-Bob-Meyrick

On stage, Marlene Verplanck stood quite still, diminutive and always graceful, just letting the lyrics of the songs she sang breathe and speak for themselves. It was her perfect intonation and vocal clarity that always impressed, every performance like a masterclass, her accompanists hand-picked for their taste and swing. In Britain, it was usually John Pearce on piano, earlier it had been Geoff Eales and it was nearly always Bobby Worth at the drums. Marlene built up a network of club venues and concert locations here in Britain and her annual jaunts which had started in 1989 became a regular feature of her schedule. Her British fans were constant, happy to see her again and again.

A new UK tour was due to start in March and was again to include a Sunday set at Ronnie Scott's. But then came the news of her death on 14 January from pancreatic cancer. She was 84. Although it was first diagnosed last November, she had kept quiet about her illness, fulfilling her gigs in New York and New Jersey until a short while ago.

Marlene was from Italian-American stock, born in in 1933 in Newark, New Jersey, where her family ran an Italian restaurant. She first sang briefly with Charlie Spivak's band where she met her future husband, the trombonist and arranger Billy VerPlanck, and both were then with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Marlene and Billy married in 1955 and stayed together in both a personal and musical partnership until he died in 2009.

With the band business on its knees, Marlene moved seamlessly onto the New York studio scene in the 1960s, recording literally hundreds of jingles and commercials over the next 30 years, every word clearly enunciated, every high note cleanly hit. She later embarked on a solo vocal career, masterminded at first by Billy, who was always at her side on her early visits to the UK. She recorded more than 20 albums, mostly with all-star jazz groups including one led by Pearce, others with big bands and memorably, another with the French all-saxophone group Saxomania. Any notion that she might retreat into anonymity once Billy had died was soon dispelled as Marlene flourished, playing the best New York venues and touring internationally, always upbeat and apparently tireless.

The US writer Doug Ramsey said she "was a delight to be with, gracious and funny", and so she was. RIP Marlene.

– Peter Vacher
– Photo by Bob Meyrick 

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Alexander Hawkins heads up Emulsion Fest Part VII

Alexander Hawkins heads up Emulsion Fest…

The seventh installment of the genre-busting Emulsion Festival is set...

Read More.....
Shirley Tetteh, Denys Baptiste and Ian Shaw among Parliamentary Jazz Award winners

Shirley Tetteh, Denys Baptiste and Ian S…

The winners of the 14th annual Parliamentary Jazz Awards took...

Read More.....
Omar Puente and Steam Down Collective for Albany

Omar Puente and Steam Down Collective fo…

South London's longstanding music and arts venue, The Albany, has...

Read More.....
Up From The Vaults: Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet Albums Back on Vinyl

Up From The Vaults: Don Rendell/Ian Carr…

Long regarded as among the most notable and, in recent...

Read More.....
Georgia Mancio's triumphant triple bill at second Pizza Hang

Georgia Mancio's triumphant triple bill …

It's been something of an annus mirabilis for the vocalist...

Read More.....
Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings, The Necks and Ambrose Akinmusire make moves at Mondriaan Jazz Fest

Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings, The …

The second edition of the Mondriaan Jazz Festival takes place...

Read More.....
Black Top boogie on down for Sardinian Extravaganza

Black Top boogie on down for Sardinian E…

This exciting initiative taken by London-based vocalist Filomena Campus is...

Read More.....
UK Seers Foresee Future Homegrown Visions At Jazz In The Round's Emergence Fest

UK Seers Foresee Future Homegrown Vision…

Jazz In The Round promoters Chris Phillips and Jez Nelson...

Read More.....
Julian Siegel and Renegade Brass light up Limerick Jazz Festival

Julian Siegel and Renegade Brass light u…

This year's festival was perhaps short on surprises, compared to...

Read More.....
Dayes Of Future Past As Yussef Dazzles At Brighton's Haunt

Dayes Of Future Past As Yussef Dazzles A…

The bouncer outside is busy checking ID and handing out...

Read More.....
Gobbling Gourmet On Finnish Baltic Sea Jazz Cruise

Gobbling Gourmet On Finnish Baltic Sea J…

Most jazz cruises skim through moist Caribbean parts, proffering smooth...

Read More.....
New York group SUM premiere ‘Sinking Sand’ video

New York group SUM premiere ‘Sinking San…

Fast emerging New York group SUM bring together jazz, soul...

Read More.....
Claire Martin and Liane Carroll top JBGB autumn jazz line-up

Claire Martin and Liane Carroll top JBGB…

There's a busy jazz line-up at the Other Palace, PizzaExpress...

Read More.....
Guadeloupean Drummer Dolmen Goes For Gwoka At French Institute

Guadeloupean Drummer Dolmen Goes For Gwo…

The World Is Moving is an apt title for this...

Read More.....
Riot Jazz Brass Band for ISM Trust's The Empowered Musician Conference

Riot Jazz Brass Band for ISM Trust's The…

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) Trust are holding a...

Read More.....
Bishop Bones Up In Glasgow

Bishop Bones Up In Glasgow

Chicagoan trombonist Jeb Bishop (Vandermark 5/Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet/Globe Unity...

Read More.....
Szun Waves share new video for ‘Moon Runes’

Szun Waves share new video for ‘Moon Run…

Jazztronica trio Szun Waves have just released the video for...

Read More.....
Flying Machines Video Exclusive – ‘New Life’

Flying Machines Video Exclusive – ‘New L…

Guitarist Alex Munk returns in emphatic style with his hard-driving...

Read More.....
Elliot Galvin, Cherise Adams-Burnett and Fini Bearman for Elgar Room jazz fest nights

Elliot Galvin, Cherise Adams-Burnett and…

The Royal Albert Hall's venue-within-a-venue, The Elgar Room, has a...

Read More.....
EFG renews title sponsorship, Jazz Voice stars, Rymden and Jamie Baum for EFG London Jazz Fest

EFG renews title sponsorship, Jazz Voice…

The full programme for this year's EFG London Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Tim Berne/Matt Mitchell Duo and Sheila Maurice-Grey vibe up The Vortex

Tim Berne/Matt Mitchell Duo and Sheila M…

There's a plethora of essential jazz nights lined up at...

Read More.....
Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2018 Nominees Announced

Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2018 Nominees …

The nominations have been announced for this year's Parliamentary Jazz...

Read More.....
Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet Video Premiere and Jazz Cafe Debut

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet Video Premiere…

Polish bassist Wojtek Mazolewski brings his acclaimed Quintet to the...

Read More.....
Nils Petter Molvaer lights up Ystad Festival with magical dawn chorus

Nils Petter Molvaer lights up Ystad Fest…

For this year's Ystad jazz festival the spotlight was on...

Read More.....
Now Vs Now, Elephant9 and Geir Sundstøl shine at Punkt

Now Vs Now, Elephant9 and Geir Sundstøl …

As our world edges further into turmoil, the remote idyll...

Read More.....
Ray Carless wows with Windrush jazz celebration at The Vortex

Ray Carless wows with Windrush jazz cele…

The Windrush Scandal has been one of the biggest stories...

Read More.....
Shabaka Shakes Sons Loose At Saalfelden

Shabaka Shakes Sons Loose At Saalfelden

  Though Jazzfestival Saalfelden might not nestle between the likes of...

Read More.....
First Ever Jazz Survey Across The South Of England

First Ever Jazz Survey Across The South …

Following the announcement of the Arts Council England funding award...

Read More.....
Randy Weston 06/04/26 – 01/09/18

Randy Weston 06/04/26 – 01/09/18

Like several prominent African-American jazz artists, pianist Randy Weston, who...

Read More.....
Robert Mitchell Epiphany 3 for EP and tour

Robert Mitchell Epiphany 3 for EP and to…

Pianist Robert Mitchell releases a new five-track EP, Epiphany, on...

Read More.....
Hedvig Mollestad, Jo Berger Myhre and General Post Office shake up Oslo Jazz Festival

Hedvig Mollestad, Jo Berger Myhre and Ge…

When Oslo Jazz Festival was founded, back in 1986, it...

Read More.....
Roy Hargrove, Vijay Iyer and Paolo Fresu fire up Umbria Jazz 2018

Roy Hargrove, Vijay Iyer and Paolo Fresu…

This year was the 45th anniversary of Umbria Jazz and...

Read More.....
Cuong Vu’s Change In The Air with Bill Frisell – Video Preview

Cuong Vu’s Change In The Air with Bill F…

The September issue of Jazzwise is out now with an...

Read More.....
Birchall/Cheetham/Webster/Willberg Visit Vortex

Birchall/Cheetham/Webster/Willberg Visit…

Expect a bagful of bedlam when the free-wheeling Manchester/London-based quartet...

Read More.....
Sue Richardson lines up for inaugural Splash Point Jazz Fest

Sue Richardson lines up for inaugural Sp…

The first Splash Point Jazz Festival will take place in...

Read More.....
Jazz FM sold to Bauer Media Group

Jazz FM sold to Bauer Media Group

Jazz FM, which is broadcast nationally on DAB and recently...

Read More.....


Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

Office vibes: shamanic extemporisations via forthcoming Roman Nose LP on Singing Knives @singingknives… https://t.co/tsK5XMsUs1
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@ugEXPLODE new recordings?
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA