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Angela Hagenbach: Poetry of Love

On Angela Hagenbach’s Poetry of Love (Amazon) the Kansas City stunner remains the vocal equivalent of Bermuda’s fabled pink sand-soft, shimmering, a little gritty and utterly unique. Working with various combinations of sidemen, including such estimable players as Clark Terry, Russell Malone, Paul Smith, Don Braden and Jimmy Heath, Hagenbach, who doubles as her own arranger, succeeds about 70 percent of the time. Her handling of the seven standards included among the album’s 10 tracks, ranging from the sultriness of Michael Franks’ undervalued “Tell Me All About It” to the brassy exuberance of “It Might As Well Be Spring” is elegantly skillful. Her “Never Let Me Go,” (which, as an aside, seems to have emerged as the chestnut du jour, popping up on all sorts of recent vocal albums) is like slow-melting dark chocolate. “Watch What Happens,” where her stylistic kinship to Anita O’Day becomes most evident, is absolutely sublime. Where Poetry of Love fails is its three Hagenbach originals. Her “Bittersweet,” “Dark Dreams” and “You Keep Calling Me” are all first rate examinations of love’s cloudier side. All are, however, distractingly overcooked. It’s as if she feels the need to hide her own compositions behind a heavy curtain of production tricks and excesses. Seemingly, Hagenbach has yet to fully accept that she shines brightest when nestled in less-pretentious arrangements, as so ably demonstrated here on “I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” respectively adorned by Malone and Rod Fleeman’s velvety guitar work.

Originally Published