Album Review and Obituary: CAROL SLOANE: LIVE AT BIRDLAND (Club 44 Records)

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by Tony Frankel on January 26, 2023

in CD-DVD,Film,Music

[Editor’s Note: It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Carol Sloane, one of America’s greatest jazz vocalists, on January 23, 2023, at the age of 85. We reprint our review of her final album, CAROL SLOANE – LIVE AT BIRDLAND. Here is the narrative of a new documentary, which is in post-production. An obituary is reprinted below the review.]


In 1963 Carol Sloane said, “I want to be one of these persons who have been around a long time.” Check. Did you know that Carol, singing since 1953, was one of the biggest hits at the 1961 Newport festival? Enough so that she was signed with Columbia Records. She hasn’t stopped since. Her main assets are a warmly appealing timbre, good range, and the ability to tell the story in the song, all amply demonstrated in her latest release, Live at Birdland, offering 13 tunes with an astounding trio. Wait, you say? 1961? Carol who? It’s OK, many of our best jazz chanteuses didn’t become big names, even though they are considered the best America has ever produced. And even in September 2019 — age 82 at the time of this recording — she still wraps us in her oh-so-cool, refined, unpretentious, and earthy style. A bit throatier (which only adds to the appeal), she retains that knockout personality; she always was great off the cuff.

She’s worked the top clubs and made regular appearances on TV (Jack Paar, ya know), and that’s a good thing. Carol sings great jazz in an intimate club atmosphere — and Birdland is among the best in the States — and her unforced natural talent and lovely musical personality shoots a set of thirteen stellar standards to the moon. For me, this album is also sentimental: it represents a time when people actually leaned in to entertainers, forming a bond that was not only entertaining but healing. While I would kill to go back in time to the Village Vanguard in 1962 when she sang with Oscar Petersen, this album is no doubt the next best thing, given the talents of her backup boys, the all-star trio of the late Mike Renzi on piano, Jay Leonhart on bass, and Scott Hamilton on saxophone.

There’s a documentary in post productionSloane: A Jazz Singer, to profile her remarkable career and the creation of this album, which you can stream, download or order at Live at Birdland.

photo of Carol Sloane courtesy of Club44 Records


1) Havin’ Myself a Time (Ralph Rainger, Leo Robin)
2) Blue Turning Grey Over You (Andy Razaf, Fats Waller)
3) I Don’t Want to Walk Without You (Jule Styne, Frank Loesser)
4) As Long As I Live (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler)
5) Glad to Be Unhappy (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart) /
     I Got a Right to Sing the Blues (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler)
6) If I Should Lose You (Ralph Rainger, Leo Robin)
7) You Were Meant for Me (Nacio Herb Brown, Arthur Freed)
8) The Very Thought of You (Ray Noble)
9) You’re Driving Me Crazy (Walter Donaldson)
10) Two for the Road (Henry Mancini, Leslie Bricusse)
11) Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (Harry Barris, Billy Moll, Ted Koehler)
12) I’ll Always Leave the Door a Little Open (Richard Rodney Bennett, Franklin R. Underwood, Johnny Mandel)

Club44 Records is saddened to share that beloved jazz singer Carol Sloane died January 23 at a senior care center in Stoneham, Massachusetts. She was 85. The cause was complications from a stroke two years ago, said her stepdaughter, Sandra de Novellis.

Carol’s death comes just nine months after the release of her final album, Live at Birdland. Her long-time friend, attorney and co-producer of her final album, Mark Sendroff, offers this remembrance of his friend, “I was first told about Carol by a jazz club owner in New York City who referred to her as ‘the white Ella.’ Of course I had to hear what he meant and came to realize that he was referring to her musicality and ability to tell the story while incorporating just enough scat to tastefully enhance the melody, rather than show off. We have now lost one of the remaining few authentic bridges to the Golden Age of Jazz, whose popularity and stature will surely grow ‘as time goes by.’”

Born on March 5, 1937, Carol Anne Morvan sang in church choirs in her hometown of Smithfield, Rhode Island. At 14, she began singing as Carol Vann with a local big band led by Ed Drew. Carol Sloane’s jazz career started in the 1950s when she shared the stage with notable jazz musicians like Coleman Hawkins, Clark Terry and Ben Webster. Her success at the 1961 Newport Jazz Festival garnered the attention of national media outlets and led to her signing with Columbia Records, thrusting her into a career that placed her among the most noted jazz vocalists of the era.

Recordings and regular television appearances, including “The Tonight Show,” brought Carol global acclaim. In addition to appearances at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and Lincoln Center, she toured extensively in Japan and appeared in Canada, the UK, Spain, Brazil, Portugal and the Netherlands.

The albums she recorded late in her career serve as a masterclass in jazz musicianship. Despite her age, her vocals were lauded by many as warm, “smoldering with tenderness and seduction” (Marc Meyers, liner notes for Carol’s album We’ll Meet Again). As Sloane herself shared with the New York City Jazz Record, conveying the lyrics was of utmost importance. “That’s what Carmen (McRae) taught me. She said tell the story, feel the tug in the heart.” That connection to the lyric, combined with her flawless delivery, is what made Carol Sloane a true jazz icon.

Club44 Records President Wayne Haun feels fortunate to have been able to be a small part of Sloane’s storied career. Haun shares, “I bought my first Carol Sloane CD in college. While I never had the honor of meeting her in person, we spoke several times over the phone in preparation for her album release (Live at Birdland). Our conversations would sometimes go on for an hour or so. She was a talking encyclopedia. Carol was so fascinating and loved to talk about songwriters and musicians and recordings, but I had to beg her to talk about herself. At the end of each call, I felt a sense of enlightenment. I’m so thankful our paths crossed.” 

Next month, a documentary about the life of Carol Sloane is scheduled to premiere. You can enjoy her final album, Live at BirdlandHERE

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