The Songs Ella & Louis Sang
Continuing her set of tribute albums, to Carmen McRae and to Frank Sinatra, seasoned vocalist Carol Sloane has pulled a hat trick with the dean of trumpeters, Clark Terry, in spinning off a dozen duets a la Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. They capture the spirit of Ella and Louis who did duet most of these at similarly leisurely tempos on their Ella & Louis albums, and Carol and Clark easily key on their mellow swing and savor the gracious humor. Only the set framers-"I Won't Dance" and "Stompin' At The Savoy"-go uptempo; the other ten are smooth ballads ("Tenderly," three to places-NY, AL, VT) and medium fun-for-two types ("Gee, Baby Ain't I Good To You," "Don't Be That Way").
While the two reach more extremes than their dedicatees (Carol's more unflappable and sophisticated than Ella, while Clark's more brusque and excitable than Louis) it's difficult to imagine any other two artists who could have pulled off such a date. Carol sings handsomely throughout, and renders singers and listeners a great service in hewing to the verses, so often neglected, on great songs like Vernon Duke's "Autumn In New York," for one. Clark plays almost exclusively with harmon mute (plunger on "Blueberry Hill"), taking plenty of light, tight choruses but politely never upstaging his partner; his vocals, burry and droll, are as distinctive as his patented puckish horn. The two can go for a touch of fun and droll repartee, but their straight singing and playing carry the day. In that capacity, pianist Bill Charlap shows himself to be wise beyond his years in keeping a low profile but making his presence felt, and with deep gratitude. And, for a touch of deep historical perspective, writer George Simon pens the notes.