Moonlighting suits this singer just fine

By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | July 1, 2005

Vocalist Wendee Glick took the slow road when it came to putting out her CDs, 2002's ''Baby, I'm Fine" and the forthcoming ''True Colors," due later this summer. Both those discs feature clarinet whiz Ken Peplowski and other similarly established pros. But Glick, 46, didn't start singing jazz until her early 30s, and she has no intention of giving up her day job anytime soon -- commuting daily from her home in Nashua, N.H., to work as a business manager in Newton. Glick headlines the Acton Jazz Cafe tonight. ''I went to the University of Lowell. I was taking opera there, but I ended up with a business degree with an emphasis in marketing," Glick explains. ''Growing up, my dad always stressed security and how you want to have a good job and make money. I think in the back of my mind I was always like, 'If I'm a musician, I'm never going to make the income that I want to make.' "

So she set off on a conventional path: went to work, married, had a son, got divorced. Her interest in singing never left her, though, and in the early '90s she began indulging a new interest in jazz. She watched it regularly at the 57 in Boston, where she got to know pianist Steve Heck, a collaborator on both her albums. And she started singing at weekly jam sessions at the Rolling Green in Andover, where she met guitarist Bob Ullman, her partner of the past nine years.

The connections to Glick's other CD collaborators came mostly at sea. Glick and Ullman have been booking passage on The Jazz Cruise annually since 1996. Though they travel as paying customers, Glick is occasionally asked to sit in with the name musicians. That was how she first played with pianist Eddie Higgins, who joins her on several cuts on ''True Colors."

Both of Glick's discs are chockablock with standards, in each case a carefully chosen mix of swing tunes, ballads, and a bit of Latin. The title cut on the first album, however, is a mood-lifting original inspired by Glick's late sister, Vicki, who died of a brain tumor 11 years ago. The tune's melody originated with Ullman, but Glick found herself co-opting it.

''A lot of people listen to that song, and they say it really helps them," she says. ''Because it's not necessarily about a relationship, although it sounds like it's about a relationship breaking up. It can be about any kind of loss, and that's how you do actually get over it. You wake up one day and say, 'Oh, I'm fine.' "

Several standards on ''True Colors" were chosen for their color-themed titles: ''Orange Colored Sky," ''Blue Skies," ''Honeysuckle Rose," ''Look for the Silver Lining," ''Blue Moon." But Glick was inspired to combine two others -- ''My Foolish Heart" and ''The Second Time Around" -- as the male and female perspectives, pro and con, on a budding romance. She worked out the arrangement with Heck, who sings the male part on it.

''I said to Steve, 'Could those two songs go together?' And he's like, 'You know what, I think they could.' I was lucky, because I didn't really have a clue, but they work together perfectly. I sing 'My Foolish Heart,' and then he starts singing 'The Second Time Around,' and then we start playing off each other. And it just sounds great."

Even so, it's Glick's three-octave vocal range and the joy that using it brings her that keep her moonlighting as a jazz singer.

''I could be totally feeling like I want to die after work, and I have to go to a gig, have to get my second wind," she says. ''But once I get there and I'm singing that first note, I'm immediately happy and energized. So I'm going to keep doing it."

Wendee Glick will perform at the Acton Jazz Café tonight at 9. Tickets $10. Call 978-263-6161 or visit www.actonjazzcafe.com.

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