Ellington at the Millennium.
A flood of Ellingtonia has been released in this year of the maestro’s centenary. This is the first completely vocal collection I have come upon (Tony Bennett’s Sings Ellington Hot and Cool
not withstanding). Carol Sloane of Hendricks, Lambert, and Sloane fame releases her first recording for the DRG label after several productive years on Concord Jazz. Romantic Ellington
is a well-chosen collection of Ellington/Strayhorn ballads that more often than not arrives on the road less taken.
Ms. Sloane’s voice is described as “sultry”, an overwrought word that really has no meaning. I prefer the descriptive “accomplished”. That is more like it. She croons with a definite authority, never resorting to (inappropriate) vocal gymnastics. She treats these Ellington chestnuts lovingly without pampering them, purring through the familiar (“Flower”, “Come Sunday”, “Sophisticated Lady”) and the unfamiliar (“Tonight I Shall Sleep”, “Don’t You Know I Care”).
A piano trio, three violins, and a cello support Ms. Sloane on Romantic Ellington. At first glance, I thought that the string accompaniment would be a little thin, but it turns out to be perfect. This small string section provides just enough support without the saccharine melodrama that larger section is often reduced to. Benny Golson devotes his considerable tenor talent to four or the compositions (superb accompaniment on “Daydream” and “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing”. The result is a satisfying collection of ballads, deftly preformed by and accomplished and underrated talent.
Personnel: Carol Sloane: Vocals; Mike Renzi: Piano; Dean Johnson: Bass; Ron Vincent; Drums; Barry Finclair, Belinda Whitney-Barratt, Jill Jaffe: Violins; Jesse Levy: Cello.