REVIEWS AND TESTIMONIALS
"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."
"No maybes; for Verbrugge, now is definitely the time," JazzTimes Magazine (print edition), Andrew Gilbert on Love for Connoisseurs, May 2022
Based in British Columbia’s picturesque capital of Victoria, jazz vocalist and songwriter Angela Verbrugge introduced herself with 2019’s captivating debut The Night We Couldn’t Say Good Night. That project covered a lot of ground, leading off with two originals that, in hindsight, offered a telling glimpse of her prowess and ambition. Focusing entirely on original material, written mostly in collaboration with veteran musicians, her second album Love for Connoisseurs establishes Verbrugge as a jazz artist mining everyday life for lyrical nuggets.
Angela applies her considerable wit and winsome sound to songs that tend to focus on the vicissitudes of romance. She turns pianist Ray Gallon’s intricate tune “Enough’s Enough” into an exasperated list of offenses by a slobby housemate. One hopes that their collaboration detailing the exploits of a boorish cad, “Jive Turkey,” refers to someone else. On the all-too-topical “Quarantine” they take a left turn from an “All Blues”-like intro into a forbidding portrait of life in the pre-vaccination phase of the pandemic.
Clearly a student of the American Songbook, Verbrugge takes a swing at a variety of familiar tropes and more often than not makes solid contact. Writing with bassist Neal Miner, she crafts “This Is Manhattan,” a graceful addition to the subgenre of love letters to Gotham. They also team up on the midtempo Timmons-esque groover “Mr. Right.” Vancouver saxophonist Saul Berson supplies the playful tango “Not Here, Not Now,” which in Verbrugge’s hands is an ode to regret and missed amorous opportunity. The album closes with “Maybe Now’s the Time,” a loping Mose Allison-style number written with Miles Black that turns the bebop velocity down three notches. No maybes; for Verbrugge, now is definitely the time.
The Canadian singer Angela Verbrugge declares her Love for Connoisseurs [of music] with one superb song after another on this, her gorgeous sophomore recording. Miss Verbrugge’s voice is now surely, one of the most beautiful in the lyric soprano range. The use of that operatic epithet to describe Miss Verbrugge’s style is certainly appropriate here, as she [Miss Verbrugge] fashions her narratives as a diva would, narrating a truly personal take on a story. The distance between a recitative and a show-tune or a jazzy song has almost certainly been bridged here.
As a lyricist Miss Verbrugge seems to have “learned” from the best: one senses the wit of Dave Frishberg, the glorious storytelling of Dorothy Fields and Johnny Mercer, and – all of that and a tinge of pathos that was the hallmark of songs by Cole Porter. However, make no mistake, these lyrics are singularly Miss Verbrugge’s. And what is [also] exceptional is Miss Verbrugge’s diction; you can hear every word without the need to refer to a booklet text; the singer’s vocals take care of all that. Another interesting fact about this recording is that it is made up almost entirely of the work of contemporary song writers – musicians such as the pianist Ray Gallon, saxophonists Ken Fowser and Nick Hempton for instance. The lyrics that Miss Verbrugge has added to their music might easily qualify to be exquisite icing on a layered cake. The proverbial cherry atop each confection is, of course, the fact that Miss Verbrugge sings her part flawlessly.
Miss Verbrugge has also assembled a group of musicians who are fully attuned to her artistry and vision. Certainly the performances of saxophonist Dave Say, pianist Miles Black, the inimitable contrabassist Jodi Proznick and drummer Joel Fountain play with idiomatic ingenuity, judging tempos to a nicety, showing a keen response to swiftly changing moods. This is true of the entire recording. Howewer, the measure of this exquisite performance may best be experienced on Miss Verbrugge and Mr. Black’s take on Charlie Parker’s classic, Maybe Now’s the Time.
She plays [the songs’] characters to the hilt, inhabiting their skins so to speak. As a result, while telling these stories, her bright, clear soprano is both accurate and highly expressive. She brings nuanced meaning to key words in the lyrics and shapes lines with imagination and grace. Moreover Miss Verbrugge’s singing has a firmness, lyricism and powerfully communicative quality.
This is what gives each song a lived-in quality. This is also the kind of songwriting and singing that might easily have thrilled even that most discerning of critics: Alec Wilder.
"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”.
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. 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.
Already wise to the ways of vocalastics from accompanying the great Sheila Jordan, <bassist/co-producer> Cameron Brown is... perhaps one of greatest masters of the contrabass. 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.
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. 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.
"All 13 selections on this impressive outing are enjoyable and display the great potential of the jazz singer-songwriter. Angela Verbrugge’s next recording (Love For Connoisseurs) will be comprised completely of her original lyrics. If those songs are on the level of the ones on her debut, it would not be surprising if some become standards in the future. The Night We Couldn’t Say Good Night (available from www.angelaverbrugge.com) is highly recommended." Scott Yanow, LA Jazz Journal
"Many jazz singers these days show the influence of the pop and folk music scene of the past half-century, being more influenced by Joni Mitchell than by Ella and Sarah. Angela Verbrugge is a happy exception. She loves the singers and styles of the 1930s and ‘40s, her obvious inspirations as can be heard throughout her delightful debut album.
Joined by a world class trio (pianist Ray Gallon, bassist Cameron Brown, and drummer Anthony Pinciotti), Angela Verbrugge sounds very much like a singer from that era but one who has her own individual spin on the music. She swings hard on a rousing version of “This Could Be The Start Of Something Big,” interprets “A Night In Tunisia” (under the title “Interlude”) as a concise and touching ballad, displays subtle creativity on a warm version of “All Too Soon,” sings “You And The Night And The Music” in Spanish, and also performs “Speak Softly Love” which was one of the main themes used in The Godfather. In addition, Angela Verbrugge contributes four originals that are each memorable in their own way and sound like they could have been vintage jazz standards, particularly the purposely excitable “I’m Running Late” and “How Did I Know This Was The End?”
But actually all 13 selections on this impressive outing are enjoyable and display the great potential of the jazz singer-songwriter. Angela Verbrugge’s next recording (Love For Connoisseurs) will be comprised completely of her original lyrics. If those songs are on the level of the ones on her debut, it would not be surprising if some become standards in the future. The Night We Couldn’t Say Good Night (available from www.angelaverbrugge.com) is highly recommended."
"...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. 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.
"Crisp and clear like that of a musical actor, her voice rings like a crystal glass struck with a silver spoon." Dave Doyle, The Syncopated Times
Angela Verbrugge opens her 2019 album The Night We Couldn’t Say Good Night, with lyrical gymnastics over Ray Gallon’s “I’m Running Late.” Crisp and clear like that of a musical actor, her voice rings like a crystal glass struck with a silver spoon. Like Annie Ross and Yolande Bavan, she displays impeccable precision and an impressive range. But bebopophobes needn’t fear, as this isn’t an album of wall-to-wall modern jazz. “Speak Softly Love”—better known as the theme from The Godfather— curious arrangement centering voice and bass oozes the melancholy glamour of a wartime Parisian cabaret bar. Four tunes on the album—lyrics, music or both—are penned by Verbrugge herself. These emulate well the timeless styles, though the lyrics are sometimes unmistakably modern (as in the iPhone-forgetting, Facebook-posting lifestyle portrayed by the opening track). As with the covers, their arrangements let Verbrugge’s voice take center stage. Right behind is Ray Gallon on piano, whose strategic comping evokes the masterful simplicity of Count Basie’s keyboard style. It’s an impressive array of tunes old and new, with more than a few apt to get dancers swinging out. If your tastes in jazz lean towards eclectic, this is definitely a record to check out. Learn more, sample it, and buy at angelaverbrugge.com.