Vocalist Marieke Koopman
grew up in a musical family in The Netherlands. Although the music was baroque (her father is a percussionist, her mother a harpsichordist), Koopman was somehow drawn toward jazz, especially swinging jazz. "The first time I saw a big band perform live, I was mesmerized," she writes. And she made a promise to herself: "One day, that will be me, singing with a swing band." On Chapter One,
Koopman's debut recording, that promise is kept. Koopman does indeed sing, and the band does indeed swing.
As for the music, Koopman has carefully chosen fourteen superlative standards from the Great American Songbook by composers whose names include Porter, Gershwin, Berlin, Rodgers, Hart, Carmichael, Gordon, Warren, Kahn and Duke. And lest you are thinking "I've heard those songs before; nothing to see here," chances are you could be wrong. How can that be, you ask? Because Koopman sings the verse to almost every song on the album
. For the novice, the verse is that exquisite part of a song that listeners seldom hear, the introductory passage that sets the stage for everything that is to follow. "Not using the verse," Koopman writes, "is like telling a story but starting in the middle." Disarmingly obvious and also quite true.
Without introductions, there would be no such memorable phrases as "each time I look at you is like the first time, each time you're near me the thrill is new..." (Mack Gordon/Harry Warren, "The More I See You") or "old man sunshine listen you, never tell me dreams come true; just try it and I'll start a riot..." (George and Ira Gershwin, "But Not for Me"). Not to mention "there's a story old, says that love is blind; still we're often told, seek and ye shall find..." (the Gershwin brothers again, "Someone to Watch Over Me"). Koopman reprises two verses that are sung fairly often: the "purple dusk of twilight time" from Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust," and "my story is much too sad to be told, but practically everything leaves me totally cold..." (Cole Porter, "I Get a Kick Out of You"). On the other hand, here's a gem that's almost never heard: "I thought love's game was over; Lady Luck had gone away. I lay my cards on the table, unable to play. But then I heard good fortune say, 'We're dealing you a new hand today...'" (Vernon Duke/John LaTouche, "Taking a Chance on Love"). Hearing these marvelous verses is so refreshing, and so right
, that they alone raise Koopman's album well above the ordinary.
But there's more to it than that. First, Koopman is a pretty capable singer. While she doesn't knock every lyric out of the park, she connects far more often than she misses. There are muddled phrases here and there but hardly enough to dampen one's pleasure. As for Koopman's nonet, which is present on half a dozen numbers, it surely does swing, and there are a number of admirable solos, especially by pianist Bob Wijnen
who also plays on the five quartet selections (with bassist Jos Machtel
and drummer Mitchell Damen
) and is the lone accompanist on "Stardust," as is Machtel on the Gershwins' "Looking for a Boy." The accompanist on "Someone to Watch Over Me" is Koopman's baroque-leaning father, Ton, who seems to be playing celeste in a mix-and-match melange of classical and jazz.
The charts are generally pleasing, and the band swings heartily on "The More I See You," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "Taking a Chance on Love," Porter's "Just One of Those Things" and Irving Berlin's "Let's Face the Music and Dance" (which has no opening verse). The lone misstep is saved for last: trumpeter Thomas Welvaadt
's unwieldy arrangement of Rodgers and Hart's "With a Song in My Heart," which misses the target with ample room to spare. Aside from that, tone and tempos are spot-on. That's a minor blemish on an otherwise handsome coming-out party for Marieke Koopman who is living her dream, "singing with a swing band."
Just One of Those Things; The More I See You; Looking for a Boy; Someone to Watch
Over Me; Let’s Face the Music and Dance; Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You; Stardust; I
Get a Kick Out of You; But Not for Me; Get Out of Town; Taking a Chance on Love; Things
Are Looking Up; It Had to Be You; With a Song in My Heart.