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Carol Sloane: Romantic Ellington

First heard with the Les and Larry Elgart Band in the late ’50s, Carol Sloane and her dusky voice made an involuntary retreat from the music business before she was rediscovered in the ’70s. Those dormant years were a loss to jazz purists, evidenced by her graceful renditions on this CD of “Prelude to a Kiss,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “In My Solitude” and 10 other Ellington charts arranged by pianist Mike Renzi.

Sloane’s remarkably luminous sound has a silken sheen and is marked by enduring understatement, evoking the class of Shirley Horn. Sloane performs in three musical settings here-vocal-piano duo, vocals with trio and vocals backed by trio-with-strings, augmented by the engaging inclusion of tenor saxophonist Benny Golson on four tracks. The vocal-piano renditions are the most demanding and illuminating, particularly “All Too Soon,” and a rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” rivals the legendary Johnny Hartman-John Coltrane collaboration. “Don’t You Know I Care?” has bassist Dean Johnson dueting on the opening segment, soon to be joined by drummer Ron Vincent, who suggested this tribute album.

Golson’s lush tenor is heard on “Daydream,” “Take Love Easy” and “I Didn’t Know About You.” He also teams with the string quartet on an artful reading of “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing.” The cello and three violins add a symphonic dimension to “Lotus Blossom,” for which Sloane penned the lyrics in collaboration with Roger Schore. The album closes with Sloane’s simply rendered “Come Sunday,” from Ellington’s “Black, Brown and Beige” suite. Sloane’s eloquent tribute to the Ellington genius indicates she may be a worthy successor to Ella’s throne.

Originally Published