Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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VER PLANCK, Marlene and Billy

Arranger and bandleader Billy (b John Fenno Ver Planck, 30 April 1930, Norwalk CN; d 2 June 2009, NYC) and singer Marlene (b Marlene Pampinella, Newark NJ) have been highly regarded in musical circles for decades; she became one of the finest interpreters of American songs. She sang with Tex Beneke and Charlie Spivak; his tune 'Chicken Boogie' was recorded '52 by Ralph Marterie, and he played with Claude Thornhill that year; they met working with Spivak and again with the Dorsey brothers (in '56 Billy played on Jimmy Dorsey's last session, including 'So Rare', a huge hit single). He often played first trombone, but rarely soloed; on his own albums, having talent such as Bill Harris on hand, he hardly played at all: nine-piece lineups including Joe Wilder, Eddie Costa, Phil Woods etc made Dancing Jazz and Jazz For Playgirls '57 on Savoy (later reissued by Denon/Savoy) and recorded for World Wide '58. Meanwhile she had made her first album With Every Breath I Take '55 as Marlene Paul on Savoy, with Wilder, Hank Jones on piano, Eddie Jones and Kenny Clarke on bass and drums, Herbie Mann's flute on half the tracks (later on Audiophile LP and Savoy/Denon CD).

They were kept busy in studio work in New York City as her reputation grew; Billy arranged and conducted Coleman Hawkins Meets The Saxophone Section '58 etc; they both worked in radio. She became one of the finest singers in cabaret, which for a while seemed to be coming back. The rest of her albums are all on Audiophile, and we are lucky to have so many: in the '70s You'd Better Love Me with the Loonis McGlohon Trio; Loves Johnny Mercer with a quartet including Tony Monte on piano, Bucky Pizzarelli, Milt Hinton and Butch Miles; A New York Singer '80 (five new tracks on CD) and later A Breath Of Fresh Air had a big band and strings arranged and directed by Billy. A Warmer Place and I Like To Sing '82-3 used a trio with Ben Aronov on piano, arranged by Billy; Sings Alec Wilder '88 and Pure And Natural c.'88 were followed by another big band set arranged by Billy, A Quiet Storm (leader Sonny Costanza). The Wilder set was produced by Billy; McGlohon produced six more tracks '91 to make a 20-track CD. Live In London has the Roy Babbington Trio; Meets Saxophonia In Paris was arranged by Billy again, with four reeds and rhythm. You Gotta Have Heart '97 on Verèse Sarabande treated the songs of Jerry Adler, again with Billy's arrangements, backing from (French) Saxomania (with strings) or a UK Radio Big Band.