Carol Sloane

Jazz Singer

Range, Roar and Rapture at Senator

by Geoff Chapman Toronto Star, July 2, 2004

"I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me," sang Carol Sloane for her first number in front of an enraptured audience that has packed every square centimetre of the Senator during her three-night reign as vocal queen of the Downtown Jazz Festival.

Everyone present showed they believed, and did so throughout the course of a 90-minute opening set on Wednesday, while the 60-something songstress plied them with vocal delights, pausing only to beg chocolate morsels from a willing band of front-row devotees.

Sloane has that effect on fans and non-fans alike, singing songs straight, with a twist, or with a breathy intimacy that made co-conspirators of all venue patrons. Yet her soft voice, ever-so-slightly grainy, brilliantly disguises the fact she possesses a huge range, and when she decides to boom a bit it comes as a delightful shock, as it did when she wound up the dry Jon Hendricks' lyrics for "Until I Met You" (based on the jazz anthem "Corner Pocket").

That choice seemed appropriate since she used to sub in the vocal group Lambert, Hendricks and Ross in her early productive years, which climaxed in 1961 with a showstopping act at the Newport Jazz Festival. After a couple of albums she took a few years off, worked as a legal secretary, a deejay and -- critics beware -- wrote reviews for Down Beat magazine before she was rediscovered in the late 1970s.

Nowadays she's in superb fettle, happy to let her well-attuned trio (pianist Russ Kassoff, bass Steve Wallace, drummer Terry Clarke) toy with song themes while she snags a phrase, pulling it every which way and baffling listeners trying to predict when the song would be made whole again. "Reaching For The Moon" was a good example.

"Baubles, Bangles And Beads" was an easy ride where she had fun with its lyrics, scatted a bit and let her excellent accompanists sweat a little, while "Cottontail" was another excuse to exploit Hendricks' fleet tempo words that update the Peter Rabbit kid story. In between, Sloane held the audience in the palm of her hand with Duke Ellington's "Daydream," a blissed-out reverie for the singer and the sung-to.

For more fun she tried out a variety of styles, with a polished take on her idol Carmen McRae's "I'm Glad There Is You" and some elusive rarities from the classic songbook before demonstrating her wry wit with Dave Frishberg's words to the Zoot Sims-Gerry Mulligan bop piece "The Red Door." An utterly beautiful "My One And Only Love" preceded her brassy closer "I Should Have Locked My Heart And Thrown Away The Key."

The stylish Kevin Mahogany takes her place for three shows at the club starting tonight with his tribute to vocal great Johnny Hartman, but he'll have to do especially well to displace memories of SuperSloane.