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Jazz singer Carol Sloane has made an epic return to the concert stage in North Carolina after more than 30 years. She was accompanied by the multiple award-winning pianist and composer Mike Renzi. With the singer gracefully ensconced on a slightly elevated, but comfy, chair beside the pianist, the duo was able to affect warm communication with the enthusiastic audience throughout the approximately seventy-minute performance at the Clayton Center. As has always been her talent, Sloane came up with a well calibrated one-hour show of a dozen songs to hold one's attention.
Appropriately, or not (!), one of her opening pieces was a medium tempo version of "Blue Turning Grey Over You" (Fats Waller). As was alluded to in the brief bio sketch for the performance – no program notes were provided or needed for this concert – she became "the jazz singer's jazz singer." Her treatment of the classics such as "My Blue Heaven" (Walter Donaldson, lyrics by George Whiting) and "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams and Dream your Troubles Away" (Harry Barris) were two outstanding pieces that showcased the singer's awesome dynamic range – a vocal range that she has retained remarkably over the years. Her elocution has not suffered one whit over many decades; what a pleasure! This was especially poignant in her rendition of Henry Mancini's classic ballad "Two for the Road." In this reviewer's opinion, no jazz singer can interpret a ballad in as nuanced a manner as Sloane – this was pure vocal poetry.
The superb communication with pianist Renzi was evident throughout the concert. (Both he and Sloane originally hail from Rhode Island.) Being an accompanist for some of the most celebrated singers, such as Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, and others, he is a perfect match for Sloane. Not surprisingly, he gave a dynamic and magnificent solo rendering of a medley of tunes from George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Fittingly, she ended her one-set show with an up-tempo version of Richard Rodney Bennett's "I'll Always Leave the Door a Little Open." To note that the audience was impressed with this delightful performance would be an understatement indeed!
(In the interest of full disclosure, this reviewer often worked in Sloane's band when she lived in Raleigh.)