Reviews of good albums we overlooked last year...
As a singer of jazz ballads, Carol Sloane has no equal. She has an understated delivery, she makes you feel the meaning of the words, and, most of all, she opens her heart.
Her latest album, "We'll Meet Again," highlights her subtle strengths and her mature approach to a song. As she makes her way through the album's 13 tunes, most of them little-known standards, she never hurries, never sings a decibel too loud. With a bare-bones backing of guitar (Bucky Pizzarelli), bass (Steve LaSpina) and tenor saxophone and clarinet (Ken Peplowski), Sloane has never been more exposed, vocally or emotionally.
She's at her most affecting in "I Haven't Got Anything Better to Do," a plaintive cry of lost love seen through eyes still blurry with tears. Her darkly intimate readings of "The Meaning of the Blues" and "A Cottage for Sale" have the tone of painful confession.
Not every tune is filled with middle-of-the-night regrets, though. Even without piano or drums, Sloane can swing you uptown and back with an exuberant "Exactly Like You" or her tough-gal version of "Why Don't You Do Right," accented by Peplowski's slashing clarinet.
Sloane has been around since the 1950s, and you can hear the hard knocks of life in her voice. She's never quite received the recognition she deserves, but anyone who listens to her will understand why she is one of the most gifted jazz singers of our time.
Recommended tracks: "I Haven't Got Anything Better to Do," "Why Don't You Do Right," "The Meaning of the Blues"