When I heard the title of Carol Sloane’s latest, I Never Went Away (Highnote HCD 7085; 52:42), I expected another of those bitter, “dammit-I’m-still-here” collections that more mature singers are so fond of creating. Mature it is, but only in the best sense of the word. Mellow and self-assured, it is her finest outing in years. Opting primarily for lesser-known delights from the likes of Bart Howard, Richard Rodney Bennett and Dorothy Fields, Sloane takes things at a luxurious clip. She leans into Billy Strayhorn’s “Maybe” with wicked playfulness, genuflects to Sarah Vaughan with a rich, full-bodied “Deep Purple” and ably demonstrates that misty laments like “You’re Not So Easy to Forget” are sometimes best served with a spoonful of sugar.