Think of a copper roof, glistening in the sun, all shiny and new. Now, add several decades’ wear and consider how immensely more intriguing its patina, burnished green and gray, reflecting the warmth and experience of maturity. Such is the autumnal splendor of Carol Sloane’s voice.
Indeed, though this consummate tribute honors Duke Ellington (and, of course, by association, Billy Strayhorn), it is a Vernon Duke sentiment that leaps immediately to mind. For, what is there to say that hasn’t already been said about Sloane’s vocal charisma? Indeed, nothing, except that her ability to shape 11 duskily majestic tracks supported by just piano (courtesy of Brad Hatfield) plus touches of woodwind and brass (with Ken Peplowski alternating on clarinet and sax) simply heightens their magnificence.
On the subject of her sidemen, there’s a 12th instrumental track, with Peplowski and Hatfield stretching out on a leisurely meander through “Serenade to Sweden,” reminding us that, as musical sojourns go, it rivals the contended coziness of “(Back Home Again In) Indiana.” And, on the album-closing “Just Squeeze Me,” Peplowski also proves Sloane’s able vocal partner, the two of them blending so marvelously that it’s fair to herald them jazz singing’s equivalent of Ginger and Fred (or, given Peplowski’s penchant for winningly goofy asides, perhaps more accurately, Dean and Jerry).