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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Reviews for "Dearest Duke"

An unanticipated glitch at my web site prevents the publication there of four reviews I'd very much like you to read. I'm rather proud of them. The cd was recorded in January, 2007, in the intimate Westwood, Massachusetts studio of bass player Peter Kontrimas. Brad Hatfield, the pianist on the date, unknown to many of you, is a busy musician. He and Peter most often are found working a chock-a-block schedule with The Boston Pops.

Ken Peplowski is an old friend possessing a magnificient talent you will instantly appreciate on this cd if you happen to be unfamiliar with his voluminous recording history. Visit Ken's web site to view his extensive discography.

In the studio, Ken and I stood side by side facing Brad at the Steinway: no isolation booths, no ear-phones (except on Brad who needed to hear the cue from Peter). It was an old-fashioned method which I believe served us well. I've been told by many that the sound - the presence the listener experiences - is outstanding.

Perhaps this background and the following reviews will persuade you to run right out and buy a copy. That would be very nice indeed, and I thank you in advance.

Review # 1:

Carol Sloane: Dearest Duke (Arbors 19350)
by Frank John Hadley

Carol Sloane doesn't so much sing a song as bestow it a state of grace. Quietly expressive in an alto of tremendous warmth, she has recorded more songs by Duke Ellington than any other composer in the many years since being "discovered" at the 1961 Newport Jazz Festival. There have been two all-Ellington albums in her discography: "Sophisticated Lady" from 1977 and 1999's "Romantic Ellington."

Sloane's third fond bow to the master, "Dearest Duke," with Brad Hatfield on piano and Ken Peplowski on reeds, works like a charm. Though the material is familiar, nine individual songs and two medleys all breathe with the calm modulated joy of an unusually wise vocalist committed to finding new delight in long-treasured lyrics and music.

Sloane considers ballads her primary way of conveying emotion. She examines each word for nuanced meaning as if it were the edge of a diamond under a microscope. Negotiating the melody of "Sophisticated Lady" with a dreamy finesse, Sloane appears to have deeper understanding of the tune than when she interpreted it on records in the 1970s and '90s. She brings calm and considered awe to "In a Sentimental Mood," staying free of pretense or melodrama, as clarinetist Peplowski mirrors her mood with seeming effortlessness. "Mood Indigo" is her low-key yet poignant confessional on love, that special voice of hers gliding sky-high in rapture at song's end.

One reason why Sloane is so effective on ballads, and on the occasional number where she picks up the tempo with swinging surety, is her esthetic decision to leave pauses between phrases. These pregnant, suspenseful silences lure lucky listeners into the timeless songs.


THE WASHINGTON POST, December 25, 2007
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


THE NEW YORK SUN, Dec. 28, 2007:
"Jazz To Remember And To Remind: The Best Jazz of 2007":

Carol Sloane "Dearest Duke" (Arbors): The other outstanding vocal album of the year is Ms. Sloane's latest and most heartfelt collection of Ellingtonia. The nod almost went to Andy Bey's new Birdland set, but the presence of the brilliant clarinetist Ken Peplowski on every track puts Ms. Sloane over the top.
-Will Friedwald


THE NEW YORKER, January 14, 2008:
Best of 2007:
Carol Sloane, “Dearest Duke” (Arbors)

There’s no place for Sloane to hide on this intimate set, and that works out just fine for this underrated veteran singer. Accompanied only by piano and Ken Peplowski’s clarinet and saxophone, Sloane glides over imperishable Ellington ballads, treating each with the blend of delicacy and solidity that only a skilled vocalist can conjure. It’s minimalist magic.


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