Obituary: Carol Sloane

    Gifted interpreter of Great American Songbook ballads, which she would subtly draw into jazz as she underscored her singing with lithe swing

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    Carol Sloane at Ronnie Scott's in 1970. Photo © Harry M. Monty

    An outstanding jazz singer, Carol Sloane will be missed by admirers worldwide, all of whom will be grateful for her legacy of many albums testifying to her remarkable gifts.

    She was born Carol Morvan, 5 March 1937, Providence, Rhode Island, and in her early teenage years sang with a local dance band led by Ed Drew. While still in her teens, she joined the nationally known big band fronted by brothers Les and Larry Elgart, where she briefly used the name Carol Vann before adopting Sloane as the name by which she was thereafter known (and chose to be addressed by family, friends and colleagues).

    At the start of the 1960s, her reputation grew thanks to deputising briefly for Annie Ross with Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, and an appearance at the 1961 Newport Jazz Festival. There, as one of the ‘New Faces’, she made an impression singing Little Girl Blue unaccompanied.

    Sloane began recording, appeared at many nightspots in the New York City area, and in the early 1960s was often on television where she appeared with Skitch Henderson’s band and on The Tonight Show and The Arthur Godfrey Show.

    Later in the decade, in common with many jazz artists, Sloane’s skills were out of favour with audiences and as opportunities diminished she moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where she worked as a legal secretary. It was not until the end of the following decade that Sloane returned to New York City where for a while she collaborated with pianist Jimmy Rowles.

    In the 1980s, she performed in several places, notably Boston, Massachusetts, where she sang in clubs, appeared on her own radio show, made records, including 1988’s Love You Madly for Contemporary Records, and married club owner Buck Spurr.

    During the next decade, Sloane’s career blossomed, in particular thanks to a contract with Concord Records, which resulted in several notable albums, among them 1995’s The Songs Carmen Sang, a superb tribute to Carmen McRae, on which she is accompanied by alto saxophonist Phil Woods. Building on her recording successes, Sloane toured, gaining popularity overseas, especially in Japan. Continuing to record into the next decade, her standard of excellence never faltered, as can be heard on her DRG recording, Romantic Ellington (2000), and on sessions for HighNote Records, I Never Went Away (2001) and Whisper Sweet (2003).

    Although she drew her repertoire from many genres, Sloane was an especially gifted interpreter of classic ballads from the Great American Songbook. With these songs, she always found the emotional heart of the lyrics, while subtly drawing the music into jazz as she underscored her singing with lithe swing.

    She continued to work through the 2010s, and in September 2019 she appeared at Birdland, where she was accompanied by pianist Mike Renzi, bassist Jay Leonhart and tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton. This session was recorded and a CD, Live At Birdland, was released by Club44 Records in April 2022. A documentary film, Sloane: A Jazz Singer, which includes excerpts from that last performance, was completed in late 2022.

    Following a stroke in June 2020, Sloane had moved into residential care in Stoneham, Massachusetts, which is where she died 23 January 2023. A remarkably talented and elegant singer of jazz and popular song classics, Carol Sloane will be forever closely and rightly linked with the great singers of the preceding generation.

    Carol Sloane, singer, born 5 March 1937, Providence, Rhode Island; died 23 January 2023, Stoneham, Massachusetts