Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Carol Morvan, 5 March 1937, Providence RI) Jazz/cabaret singer. She said in 1987 that the singer she'd most like to sound like was Carmen McRae. She began singing with an Ed Drew band at age 14, two nights a week for $9.80 a night. Married at 18 to a disc jockey, she worked as a legal secretary and sang in local clubs; the marriage broke up and she went on the road with the Les and Larry Elgart band in 1958-60; Larry didn't like her last name and eventually introduced her as Carol Sloane. She left the band in NYC; Jon Hendricks asked her if she would dep for Annie Ross if necessary (in Lambert Hendricks and Ross; see Hendricks's entry); it never happened, but Hendricks called her up on stage at the Village Vanguard and Max Gordon offered her two weeks opposite Oscar Peterson.

In the 1960s she opened shows for comics Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor etc. Her big singing debut was a Saturday afternoon 'New Stars' performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1961; as she put it in an interview, the new stars that preceded her were so busy proving that they should be old stars that they all overstayed their time. Everybody was leaving when she began singing 'Little Girl Blue' a cappella so pianist Gildo Mohones could hear the verse, and people stopped to listen. She was a hit, and Columbia released her first album Out Of The Blue that year. (with Clark Terry, Al Klink, Bobby Brookmeyer; arranged by Brookmeyer and Bill Finegan, reissued on Koch in 1996 with additional tracks). She didn't like the atmosphere in the studio and her second album Live At 30th Street '62 had an invited audience of 300. Then she lost her momentum; she thought she was on her way but didn't know how to follow up.

She announced her retirement in 1968 when she began writing reviews in down beat, feeling that she couldn't review other singers if she was still singing; she got fed up with NYC and moved to Raleigh NC in 1969 after getting an offer from a club called the Frog and Nightgown (owned by drummer Peter Ingram; closed '75). She toured Japan with Roland Hanna in 1977 replacing Dee Dee Bridgewater; her album Sophisticated Lady on Japanese Trio was later reissued on Audiophile. Carol And Ben '77 on Honey Dew was a souvenir, recorded from the audience; she was doing a club date with the Mike Renzi Trio when Ben Webster asked if he could sit in. Subway Tokens was self-produced on Moonbeam around that time. Further albums were Carol Sings on Progressive, later on Audiophile, with Jimmy Rowles and Frank Wess, and Cottontail on Choice, both '78; As Time Goes By, one of her favourites, with Don Abney on piano (b 10 March 1923, Baltimore) and Live, a duet with Joe Puma on guitar (d 31 May 2000 in the Bronx, aged 72), both '82 on Japanese labels (Eastwind and Baybridge).

She had gone to work as a legal secretary; had her own radio show in 1982, but after two failed relationships with musicians (Brookmeyer and Rowles, both geniuses, both heavy drinkers) a sense of failure took over; she was broke in 1985, her phone disconnected, her car repossessed; she started calling clubs and working again. Now she was older, singing better than ever, and knew how to deal with it. More albums: But Not For Me '86 on Japanese CBS/Sony; Love You Madly '88 with Art Farmer, Clifford Jordan, Kenny Burrell, Kenny Barron, and The Real Thing '90 with Phil Woods, both on Contemporary. She had made 14 albums altogether in Japan, including Midnight Sun (with tracks from 1977 and 1993) on TDK, Spring Is Here on Lobster, both with Hanna and George Mraz, and Summertime on Lobster. There are two different versions of Spring Is Here, takes 1 and 2, all the same songs but different sets all done direct to disc. Then on Concord came Heart's Desire '91, Sweet And Slow '93, When I Look Into Your Eyes '94, The Songs Carmen Sang '95 with Phil Woods, The Songs Sinatra Sang '96 (smooth and sultry), The Songs Ella And Louis Sang with Clark Terry. By then she was well established as one of our finest interpreters.

I Never Went Away came out on High Note 2001, followed by Whisper Sweet 2003 on that label with a quartet, and then an intimate Dearest Duke 2007 on Arbors, with just Brad Hatfield on piano and Ken Peplowski on reeds: the latest album got admiring reviews in the New York Times, down beat, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, and many other places.