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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Janet Planet continues to radiate quality

The jazz vocalist’s latest album fits her word – “revealing.”
Janet Planet
Janet Planet

GREEN BAY, Wis., (WFRV) – On stage, in a live situation, in an enticing situation with the tag of importance – “special guest” – stood Janet Planet, microphone in hand. As the show’s star Garth Neustadter* created a comfy blanket of violin notes for her, Planet applied her masterful voice to these words:

At last 
My love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song

As she sang the great standard, Planet adjusted the microphone to capture the exact volume and texture she wanted out of each syllable, each phrase, each note. Sometimes a micro-note.

Suddenly, Planet’s voice soared. Fire, passion, energy, desire, hunger and dynamism ruled. Hair rose on the back of my neck. A rarity.

The moment was a reminder of how good Wisconsin product Janet Planet is.

Flash forward to the lobby after the concert. Janet Planet stands in front of an array of her albums. I ask, “Which one do you want me to write about?” She winces. She rattles off attributes of her individual “babies,” then makes a choice.

It’s her most recent album, recorded in performance. Her description includes the word “revealing.”

What the album reveals is a singer adept at multiple styles in and around the jazz genre. She can stand and deliver – live – in the sophisticated realm of New York City. She’s comfortable. She’s confident. She’s thoughtful. She’s fun. She’s… well, here’s her album:

Title info: “Janet Planet LIVE at the Metropolitan Room NYC,” special guest Gene Bertoncini, 14-16 March, 2013

Personnel: Janet Planet, vocals; Tom Theabo, guitar; Dan Loomis, bass; Ross Pederson, drums; special guest, Gene Bertoncini, guitar.

The album contains more than a few kernels of through about Janet Planet, the singer.

Songs

“Happy Talk,” Richard Rodgers

“It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” Bob Dylan

“A Sleepin’ Bee,” Harold Arlen

“Mad About the Boy,” Noel Coward

“Rhode Island is Famous for You,” Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz

“But Beautiful,” Jimmy Van Heusen

“A Time for Love,” Johnny Mandel

“Diagonal,” Chris Swansen

“Lazy Afternoon,” John Latouche and Jerome Moross

“Calling You,” Bob Telson

“If I Knew the Way,” Chris Swansen

“Mercedes Benz,” Janis Joplin, Michael McClure, Bob Neuwirth

“Oh Danny Boy,” Frederic Weatherly

You don’t need a blow-by-blow on the songs. It’s a worthy album (5 stars out of 5) by a worthy singer. The album captures the essence of live, “truthful” performance. Especially, I like what happens when Planet hears audience requests, with Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz” turning into a kind of spontaneous combustion.

In show business, folks around here tend to be fascinated by distance. The luster is elsewhere. Janet Planet is the elsewhere luster in our backyard.

*-Planet performed Saturday, Dec. 28, at Manitowoc’s Capitol Civic Center as part of the show, “Garth Neustadter Trio New Year.” Planet and multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer Neustadter performed on stage together for the first time. In four songs, each took care to give the other performance space to display individual strengths. The song, “Our Love is Here to Stay,” found Planet in a rare, live romantic duet, and she made sure she didn’t overwhelm what Neustadter can do vocally. She’s a sentient performer.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV at 6:45 p.m. Thursdays and every other Sunday between 6 and 8 a.m. (usually around 7:45 a.m.)

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