Four things we've come to count on when unwrapping a new Marlene VerPlanck disc: top-flight arrangements from hubby Billy (tripling as arranger and conductor), at least a couple of obscure Johnny Mandel gems among the tracks, further digging among the back halls and basements of songwriters' archives for additionally surprising delights and polished, astute readings from a multishaded pro who has, over the years, augmented her durable solo career with backup work in support of everybody from Sinatra and Como to Gene Simmons.
This time around, the requisite Mandel quotient is filled by the velvet-soft satisfaction of "Quietly There" (further softened by Bucky Pizzarelli's gorgeous guitar accompaniment) and the frisky bounce of the Dave Frishberg collaboration "Little Did I Dream." The unearthed treasures extend from an appropriately silken reworking of the Nat Cole hit "Nothing Ever Changes My Love for You" and gentle excavation of the noirish corners of Floyd Hunt's "Fool That I Am." Top marks, though, go to VerPlanck's cloudy exploration of Edmund Anderson's "Is It Raining in New York?" (again featuring Pizzarelli), which, like the moodier twin of Frishberg's "Do You Miss New York?" will leave you longing for the inimitable allure of Manhattan captured in an autumn mist.