Three Near-Death Experiences Later, Singer Angela Verbrugge Prevails, Pursues Her Dream, and Releases New Album
Some real-life stories are so remarkable, they take on a cinematic quality. In the case of singer Angela Verbrugge, her personal journey is filled with not one, not two, but three near-death experiences that have shaped her path, and have provided the fuel for her burgeoning music career: "I was in a head-on collision, almost drowned, and then, when I had three kids under five, I got a very serious kind of cancer that had spread. I decided that if I could get through the treatments and survive it, and get my life back together, I would pursue my dream."
That dream is music. Verbrugge's sound finds its home somewhere between vocal jazz, traditional pop and American Songbook/Broadway/Cabaret. Her witty, joyful debut album, 'The Night We Couldn't Say Goodnight' (Gut String Records), combines original tracks with inspired covers, and will be released February 1st. It's a remarkably strong collection, and the pedigree shines through as well. Vancouver-based Verbrugge comments on her fine collaborators, and the genesis of the project: "Pursuit of my dream took me to Vermont Jazz Center to work with legendary jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan. I met Cameron Brown, Sheila's longtime bass-voice duo partner, a former Jazz Messenger known for his work with the George Adams Quartet and Artie Shepp. Cameron offered that if I came to New York, he would play on and help co-produce my debut record. Sheila also introduced me to the wonderful jazz pianist and mainstay on the New York jazz scene who she has worked with over the years, Ray Gallon, who she told me is like a son to her. Ray has played with many instrumental and vocal jazz greats. Cameron brought aboard Anthony Pinciotti, who he had met touring together in Russia with Sheila many years earlier. Ray invited us to rehearse in the land of jazz history, near Sugar Hill in Harlem, and we recorded at Trading8s with Grammy-award winning engineer Chris Sulit."
Highlights abound on the album: on 'I'm Running Late', Verbrugge's super-fast-paced vocals match the rushed theme of her witty lyrics...it's a delightfully smart track with modern references listeners can instantly relate to. 'Speak Softly Love' is elegant...a reverent reimagining of the beloved 'Godfather' melody. The original 'You're Almost Perfect' is another centerpiece, where intelligence and humor come together, with clever lyrics such as "you're almost perfect, I want to change you!" In addition to the standout songwriting, Verbrugge at times incorporates her background as an actress into her vocal performances, elevating the songs and bringing her characters to life. In all, the album contains four originals alongside reinterpretations of Gershwin, Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and more. A private streaming link to the album, with additional track/artist details, is here!
Veteran journalist Will Friedwald provides the liner notes here!
Verbrugge is resilient and optimistic, aware of the uphill battle to be embraced as an emerging artist, but utterly convinced she's meant to be here. She puts it this way: "I knew it would be a tough road to come to professional singing and songwriting as a mature adult, and as a Mom of three juggling other work, but after having my third near-death experience, I decided that I deserve to be here and have my voice heard."
A series of brief video interviews chronicle the making of the album and feature many of the collaborators here!
Verbrugge's bio is here, and she shares some additional context regarding her music and background:
"I have always played piano: old sheet music, vintage songbooks, scores from the great movie-musicals of yesteryear. I fell in love with the Ella Fitzgerald songbook albums and the great sentimental ladies and gents of song, and never listened to contemporary music. When I found jazz, I realized many of my favorites from the Great American Songbook had become jazz standards, but that many had been overlooked. I realized that there are so many talented artists doing such wonderful things, I wondered what did I have to say that was unique? I realized that I knew some great songs that not everyone has heard. I realized that I had internalized the lyrical meter, rhyme scheme of favorite standards and could apply it to my own stories of love and longing, and to my humorous observations and create original material, and that I had ideas for new arrangements of favorites. I connected with expert musicians who could help me bridge the gap from my vision to fruition. People told me that when they heard me sing, it helped them to recall the thrills and heights of love and process love and loss in their own lives, and I felt so grateful to be able to make a difference."