A number of years ago Angela Hagenbach became a fan of the sound of jazz legend Sarah Vaughan, and it inspired her to make an abrupt turn in her own musical career. Although the former model had already had some success as both an instrumentalist and a pop singer, she decided that she would dedicate herself to becoming a jazz vocalist.
She has done that. The Kansas City-based songstress has generated a string of successful albums leading up to her latest, The Way They Make Me Feel, now out on the Resonance Records label. It’s a collection filled with the music of three of her favorite composers — Henry Mancini, Michel Legrand, and Johnny Mandel — and once again proves that she’s for real, with a vocal range that covers everything from smoky and sexy to soft and sweet.
Although she’s the star and her vocals take center stage, there are a lot of strong instrumental solos here too. She’s backed by a large group that includes strings — and even accordion on some of Legrand’s pieces, to give them a “French” feel. In fact, the album’s title is a play on his “The Way He Makes Me Feel” (from the soundtrack of Yentl), and it’s one of the better listens here. Although Angela’s sultry treatment presents a completely different sound than Streisand’s original, it’s a delight. So too is her take on “I Will Wait For You,” which also features some strong instrumental interludes from several members of the orchestra, most notably accordionist Frank Marocco.
Another track I liked a lot was Mancini’s lush “Slow Hot Wind,” which features Angela’s smokiest voice used to perfectly evoke the intended mood. She also does a good job with “Charade,” the familiar theme song from the movie of the same name, giving it an added zest via some skillful scat singing.
Mandel’s music is also a big part of the album’s eleven tracks — four of them to be exact — and the best range from the soft ballad “Close Enough For Love,” to the Latin-flavored “Cinnamon And Clove.” The former features a soft melodic intro from clarinetist Steve Wilkerson, while the latter is a piece that is normally performed as an instrumental, most notably by an old favorite of mine, sax legend Zoot Sims. It’s a strong instrumental piece here too, but with the addition of Angela — who has some solid experience in Latin jazz — it becomes very special indeed.
The same could be said about the entire album — very special, and highly recommended.