Carol Sloane, who admitted she can't read music ("It looks like chicken scratch to me") was doubtless not a familiar name, much less voice, to many of those who filled the Corcoran's small hall yesterday afternoon for her version of the book of Rodgers and Hart/Hammerstein II, but her artistry, breathtaking skills and acute sense of pathos along with the bizarre will not easily be forgotten by any of those who were present.
Sensitively accompanied by guitarist Joe Puma, Sloane selected tunes at random from the program of two dozen compositions. The informality and apparent lack of preparation bothered neither the singer, who scatted when the lyrics wouldn't come, nor her audience, who received warmly her idiosyncrasies of performance and listened in rapt silence to her gossamer whispers.
On "Manhattan" she stretched the word "zoo" over a couple of bars and the title "Mountain Greenery" landed syllable by syllable, smack on top of Puma's clipped notes. A cappella introductions to several songs isolated the singer's control and her uncanny ear. "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," taken at a slow walk, spelled out the confusion that love can work. "The Lady Is A Tramp" threw caution out the window as Sloane's wordless vocal and Puma's crackling guitar ripped to a finish.
Sloane and Puma have not often been heard lately in Washington. That is a circumstance that ought to be remedied.