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Angela Hagenbach: The Way They Make Me Feel

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The “they” of the title refers to three of the preeminent composers of the late-20th century: Henry Mancini, Johnny Mandel and Michel Legrand. We all know their work-songs woven in the fabric of the pop-culture zeitgeist. Or do we? In shaping her playlist, Angela Hagenbach prefers to sidestep the obvious, digging deeper into their troves. Instead of Legrand’s ubiquitous “Windmills of Your Mind” from The Thomas Crown Affair, she opts for the lesser known but considerably more interesting “His Eyes, Her Eyes.” Instead of yet another “Moon River,” Hagenbach offers Mancini’s fervent, mysterious “Slow Hot Wind.” And instead of the umpteenth “Shadow of Your Smile,” she delivers the passionate “Sure as You’re Born” (Mandel’s first collaboration with Alan and Marilyn Bergman, written for the 1966 Paul Newman detective flick Harper).

It’s tempting to detect hints of Sarah Vaughan in Hagenbach, understandable since Vaughan united with Legrand in 1972 to deliver perhaps the definitive interpretation of his songbook, and enriched much of the Mancini oeuvre during her latter Mercury years. Yet, though Hagenbach seems to borrow liberally from the cognac tang of Sassy’s shadings, the more obvious and intriguing influence is Julie London. Hagenbach is consistently more enervated than the chronically laidback London, but her phrasing eerily echoes London’s smoldering inveiglement. Sweeping waves of strings further intensify the boudoir mood.

Originally Published