There were a lot of expectations yesterday before going to the Jazz Standard to see legendary singer Carol Sloane. After all, she hadn’t performed in the city for many years and seemed to be a bit off the radar. So it came as a bit of a surprise to see her name popping up during a six-night run of pianist Bill Charlap playing in all kinds of combinations (he is scheduled to appear with Renee Rosnes tonight and tomorrow night and with his trio and Houston Person and Freddy Cole on Sunday night).
But when Carol opened up her set with “Where Or When”, you could sense immediately that she hadn’t lost any of her wonderful qualities. Here she was displaying her true artistry which has made her one of my all-time favorite singers throughout the years: the different shades and colors of her voice, warm and thick in the lower registers, charming and nuanced in the higher notes, all the while telling the story with so much conviction and instinctiveness which you rarely hear in most of the other singers around. Her phrasing on “Daydream” was so utterly poignant, never losing track of the story, perfecting the performance with a timeless diction which strongly came through due to this intimate character of the show with just piano and voice. And Bill Charlap exuded so many wonderful ideas, not only accompanying Carol, but rather really going into all these little sensitive conversations with her.
That elegant, not too overtly exuberant swing is right there as well, like on “Give Me The Simple Life”, “Exactly Like You” or “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart”. And oh how I admired the pitch-perfect rendition of “Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year”; her brilliantly nuanced interpretation simply was a consummate work of art. I was literally clinging to every single word. I really can’t praise this enough not only because it was such a wonderful experience, but also because we really don’t have a lot of singers of this extraordinary caliber around anymore.
Carol made “Sophisticated Lady” sound loose and easy and if there is one song which nearly sums up this singer’s divine artistry, it’s got to be “Something Cool” (recorded on the 1994 Concord Records album “When I Look In Your Eyes” which also had Bill Charlap on piano): it makes you leaving the club with a deliciously blissful feeling.