Pure voice, pure jazz, pure emotion.
Mary Whipple | New England | 01/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In this early CD, recorded in 1978 and re-released in 1985, Carol Sloane's rich, mellow voice and ability to interpret lyrics combine with her impeccable timing and phrasing to produce nine terrific tracks. In the opener, "Dancing Cheek to Cheek," Sloane swings, accompanied by a simple bass (George Mraz), and keeps the song relaxed. The tenor sax (Frank Wess) adds depth, paralleling her voice in timbre, while piano/arranger Jimmy Rowles (who also played for Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Carmen McRae) keeps his arrangements and solos light to emphasize her big (but totally controlled) voice, a pattern he continues throughout the album.
"An Older Man is Like an Elegant Wine," a ballad in which Sloane sometimes reduces her volume to a whisper in praise of older men, showcases her maturity (she is forty on this CD), and she makes this song sound natural, sincere. "Frasier, the Sensuous Lion," a novelty song in which a 91-year-old lion escapes a Tijuana zoo and gets "adopted" by the females in another zoo, has a jazzy, syncopated beat, as she sometimes sings in counterpoint to off-tempo drums (Joe Labarbera) and has a "wink" in her voice. In the bossa nova-based "Prelude to a Kiss," she sings in a different tempo from her accompaniment, though it is sometimes difficult to follow the melodic line in her low register at the beginning of the track.
A medley of "If Dreams Come True" and "Don't Be That Way," songs associated with Ella Fitzgerald, with whom Sloane toured for two years, get Sloane's personal interpretation here, with hints of scat at the end. "Checkered Hat," the best song on the CD for me, features Norris Turney, the composer, on alto sax in a long, passionate solo, before Sloane tells the story lyrically.
Sloane's idols and friends are easy to identify in her voice, with many echoes of Shirley Horn in her whispery narratives. Her full, rich voice recalls that of Carmen McRae and Marian McPartland. The reason this album is not one of my favorite CDs is that it features so many songs played so slowly that the CD sounds almost funereal in places, and when Sloane whispers in very slow tempo she "swallows" her notes. A fascinating early album by one of the jazz greats, this CD will be most enjoyed by fans who already have Sloane's more famous CDs. n Mary Whipple