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LOST TRACKS : Good CDs We Overlooked Last Year

Carol Sloane

Jazz singer Carol Sloane has been perennially underappreciated during her long, uncompromising career. She sings with a rare maturity and grace and has dozens of excellent recordings, yet she is little known outside a small circle of admirers.

Sloane has often recorded the music of Duke Ellington, including a full album in 1999 ("Romantic Ellington"), but her most recent effort reaches a deeper, more profound level. There are several up-tempo exceptions, but most of the 12 tracks on "Dearest Duke" are ballads that produce a delicate sense of intimacy. Sloane is supported only by Brad Hatfield's understated piano and the gentle fills of Ken Peplowski's clarinet and tenor saxophone. She doesn't scat a single note, yet her nuanced shifts in tempo and harmony -- not to mention her sultry, smoky voice -- possess the unmistakable feeling of jazz.

Sloane brings an almost literary sense of interpretation to a song's lyrics and can make a subtle vocal quaver in "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" convey a plaintive undercurrent of pain. Her poignant phrasing and inflections in "Solitude" and "I Didn't Know About You" draw on such a deep well of experience that we don't hear the words so much as feel them.

At every turn in these familiar tunes, she discovers new colors and seams of meaning that we didn't know were there. This is the finest vocal album I've heard all year, and if Carol Sloane isn't America's greatest living jazz singer, then no one deserves the title.

-- Matt Schudel

DOWNLOAD THESE:"Solitude," "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good," "I Didn't Know About You," "Just a'Sittin' and a'Rockin'/All Too Soon"

THE ROOTS OF CHICHA:

PSYCHEDELIC CUMBIAS FROM PERU


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