Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On living seventy-one years ...

****** I love birthday celebrations, no matter who they honor. I host a birthday party every January 27th and April 8th, and a very exclusive bash on October 16th. (Correctly identify those three honorees and I will send you an autographed copy of "Dearest Duke").

****** I particularly enjoy my own birthdays. One of the most memorable took place at least twenty years ago when a group of close friends hosted an intimate gathering at The Jockey Club in Manhattan (Park Avenue South at the time). They had asked me months before the fact to describe a fantastic birthday. They then proceeded to make my fantasy come true: A snow-white cake of lightest texture with thick, white icing upon which sat a notably incorrect number of dainty candles; endless glasses of chilled champagne flowing without restraint, congratulatory messages from the great and the near-great (they even went to the trouble of making up a number of old-fashioned-looking telegrams, signed by luminaries such as the President, Frank Sinatra, Helen Keller and The Pope). I also received an extravagant, beautifully wrapped gift (a gorgeous Rolex Immy) presented with appropriate fanfare (not to mention the singing of a robust chorus of "Happy Birthday"). Very much a perfect anniversary.

****** Thursday, March 6: It's a pleasure to delay my birthday celebration this year to the day after the fact since my friend Bill Charlap, Peter Washington (b) and Kenny Washington (dr) are playing at The Regatta Bar in the Charles Hotel, Cambridge, just a few miles from my home. Buck and I were enjoying dinner in one of the hotel's fine restaurants when Bill joined us. His birthday present to me? He'd play any and all songs I requested. He also invited me to sing a song at the end of the set. One accepts such a splendid invitation without hesitation. I chose "Sophisticated Lady" and savoured every note we four produced. These musicians blend delicacy, precision, passion and incomparable intelligence that is always thrilling to hear but even more exhilerating when one actually participates. Thank you Bill, Kenny and Peter for such a lovely birthday.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Meet John Brady

My friend John Brady, otherwise known as The Man In Black (hereinafter referred to as TMIB) maintains a Blog worthy of your perusal. As an editor, author and teacher and friend, I rely on him to offer guidance and encouragement.

I met Brady at least ten years ago when he and several concerned listeners organized a significant protest aimed at one of Boston's NPR affiliates, the great and powerful WGBH-FM. The station's decision to terminate a program called Music America, an eclectic five-hour mix of jazz and popular music hosted by Ron Della Chiesa, one of Boston's most beloved djs, caused consternation and a ground-swell of support. John Brady was among the founding members of The Committee To Save Music America", and that's when I met him.

John Brady ... I mean TMIB .... is currently Visiting Professional at the Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, where he has taught magazine editing and writing since 2003. He has also taught at Boston University, Indiana State University, Tufts University, Emerson College, and in 1996 he was Hearst Visiting Professor at the University of Missouri Journalism School.

He writes a monthly column on magazine editing for Folio:, the magazine for magazine management. For the past 25 years he has led magazine editing workshops at annual and regional Folio: conferences. Since 1976 over thirty-five thousand publishing professionals have attended his presentations.

Visit John Brady's Blog by clicking his name in the right-hand column.

Birthday Memories

I love this photograph. It's a moment at the 1962 Newport Jazz Festival. Yes, that is Coleman Hawkins. I'm still transfixed at the mere thought of standing beside the great man. I was all of twenty-five years old at the time. And since I will reluctantly acknowledge another birthday tomorrow, I find myself reminiscing a bit.

Fortunately for me, I have lived during a time when jazz was respected and enormously popular in this country, not to mention in Europe and Japan, thanks in large measure to Norman Granz and George Wein. The "Jazz At The Philharmonic" and "Newport Jazz Festival" programs provided jazz fans abundant opportunities to hear and see legendary musicians and singers. Ella was riding high, as was Sarah Vaughan. And I not only saw all of the people listed below, but on some occasions, worked with them. Many I called friends. They are not listed in any particular order, but they were alive and well when I knew them, and I'm just sitting here thinking about them all.

The Ellington and Basie bands were swinging, Oscar Peterson, Louis Armstrong, Anita O'Day, Gerry Mulligan, Al and Zoot, Dave Lambert, Ben Webster, Al Grey, Erroll Garner, Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Cannonball and Nat Adderly, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Stan Kenton, Mary Lou Williams (who asked me to demonstrate my remarkably inadequate scat singing ability when I met her in North Carolina); Art Pepper, Art Blakey and Charlie Mingus, Benny Carter, Pepper Adams; Sir Roland Hanna, Woody Herman, Art Farmer, Dexter Gordon, Tommy Flanagan, Al Hibler, Clifford Jordan, Hazel Scott and Dorothy Donegan, Arthur Prysock, Joe Turner and Jimmy Rushing, Barney Kessell, Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn, Billie Holiday and Betty Carter, Maynard Ferguson, Bill Potts and Benny Goodman, PeeWee Russell, PeeWee Erwin and Jack Teagarden. (I'll give you a break here so you can read the following treasured memory of Mr. T):

********* I was only fourteen and singing two nights a week with a popular dance band in Providence, Rhode Island, my home town. The gig was Wednesday and Saturday nights at a ballroom called Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet, a summer-light structure facing the cool breezes of the river. One night on a break, the guys in the band insisted I accompany them to a smaller building on the grounds where a private party was being held. The room was crowded and noisy, nobody listening to the music. I found a small patch of stage where I could just fit, gazing up into the face of the bandleader. He smiled down at me as I was clearly mesmerized by his playing and perhaps because I seemed the only one listening. Later I was told that my experience was one I might want to tell my grandchildren: I'd been sitting at the feet of Jack Teagarden.

Now back to the scheduled listing, still in progress:

Artie Shaw, Scott LaFaro, Jo Jones, Teri Thornton, Red Mitchell, Jerome Richardson, Jimmy Rowles, Panama Francis, Eddie Barefield, John Lewis, Percy Heath and Connie Kaye; Teddi King, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Mooney and Stan Getz, Charlie Byrd, Teddy Wilson, Paul Montgomery and Thelonious Monk; Lurlean Hunter and Alberta Hunter; Cal Collins, Frank Rosalino, Gary McFarland and Steve Jordan; Illinois Jacquet and Milt Hinton; Ray Charles, Harry Edison, Keter Betts, Grover Mitchell and Milt Jackson; Mel Torme, Ray Brown, Paul Quinichete, June Christy and Chet Baker, and Gil Evans too.

Thanks to Jimmy Rowles, I met Gil Evans and Chet Baker, ever so briefly, when each visited Jimmy in the apartment we shared at the time in New York's Greenwich Village.

Bill Charlap is my birthday present this year. He's appearing in this area on Thursday and Friday night, March 6 and 7, at The Regatta Bar in the Charles Hotel, Cambridge, MA. His colleagues Kenny Washington, drums and Peter Washington, bass will be along, and I can't wait to hear them, my favorites now and forever.

PS ... Remind me to tell you about the time Mortimer Snerd put the make on me.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Online Drum Workshop

I have received a most interesting note from my good friend, California drummer Colin Bailey. It sounds such a good idea, I thought it only fair to pass it on to all of you. Here is Colin's mail:

"Don Lombardi recently gave the reins of his company in Oxnard (CA) (Drum Workshop I endorse for) over to his son. He has had a fantastic studio built and is now concentrating on putting together a fabulous Web site called “The Drum Channel”. Named drummers will give master classes, and lessons which will be available world wide on pay per view. There will be a segment where drummers get together and talk about their musical experiences. Another segment will be playing within a group.

I went down in September and filmed my bass drum technique and solo concept, in coordination with my books. A couple of weeks prior to that I was there to have a talking get together with Jimmy Cobb and this coming week I will be doing the same with Joe Morello, Louis Bellson & myself. I am having a GREAT time seeing all my old friends again."

So, we must all stay closely tuned for official launch date for the new site. I'll let you know as soon as I do. Meantime, here is Colin's web page.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dearest Duke Cover

After writing about the actual recording logistics, etc. below, and publishing several gratifying reviews, I certainly wish you all to see the cover (so you can more easily spot it in the Jazz Vocal bin at your favorite cd store), and to acknowledge the image captured by Eric Stephen Jacobs. If there is a Pulitzer Prize for Photography, he is the most deserving. Thank you Eric for this terrific shot, and I apologize again for being so fidgety. But then, we have worked on several covers in the past, so we know what to expect.

Yesterday's post is next.

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.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A new Blog and some updating ...

I have recently become acquainted with a passionate jazz fan who states his views and preferences with the zeal and pure delight more often related to the sense of wonder and joyous discovery many of us experienced as teen-ages. An adolescent he is not, but rather a guitar player/published author who expresses his enthusiasm with vigor and insight. He calls his new Blog "Jazz My Two Cents Worth" and a click of your mouse will enable you to savor his opinions too. Look to the right.

It's been some time since I posted, but the Domestic Sciences have consumed all daylight hours, i.e., the painters will be in next week, sooooooo the much needed task of sorting out, disposing of and quibbling over what to keep and not to keep (my husband is a Major Pack Rat) has made this a truly jolly time for us. The fact that we are still speaking is in itself a brilliant accomplishment. Combine our sometimes heated discussion about an item's value, occuring during this most dull and boring of months, and our patience is put to the supreme test. Pitchers and catchers report in 18 hours and some minutes FINALLY, a time for rejoicing as we draw closer to the official start of the Boston Red Sox Spring Training schedule. Otherwise, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the only February highlight for TV viewing, and that was over last night. A very sweet animal named Uno, a 15-inch Beagle also known as Ch. K-Run’s Park Me In First, won Best Of Show. We applauded wildly and we are cat people, so you have some idea of how tedious February is. It's usually longer than any other month no matter what the calendar tells you, but of course, that's only if you live in New England.

In New York recently, columnist Will Friedwald told me this: If Renee Rosnes had married Mickey Rooney instead of Bill Charlap, she'd now be Mrs. Renee Rooney.