Monday, February 22, 2010
Clark TERRY & Carol SLOANE - Songs Ella & Louis Sang 1997
Continuing her set of tribute albums, to Carmen McRae and to Frank Sinatra, seasoned vocalist Carol Sloane has pulled a hat trick with the dean of trumpeters, Clark Terry, in spinning off a dozen duets a la Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. They capture the spirit of Ella and Louis who did duet most of these at similarly leisurely tempos on their Ella & Louis albums, and Carol and Clark easily key on their mellow swing and savor the gracious humor. Only the set framers-"I Won't Dance" and "Stompin' At The Savoy"-go uptempo; the other ten are smooth ballads ("Tenderly," three to places-NY, AL, VT) and medium fun-for-two types ("Gee, Baby Ain't I Good To You," "Don't Be That Way").
While the two reach more extremes than their dedicatees (Carol's more unflappable and sophisticated than Ella, while Clark's more brusque and excitable than Louis) it's difficult to imagine any other two artists who could have pulled off such a date. Carol sings handsomely throughout, and renders singers and listeners a great service in hewing to the verses, so often neglected, on great songs like Vernon Duke's "Autumn In New York," for one. Clark plays almost exclusively with harmon mute (plunger on "Blueberry Hill"), taking plenty of light, tight choruses but politely never upstaging his partner; his vocals, burry and droll, are as distinctive as his patented puckish horn. The two can go for a touch of fun and droll repartee, but their straight singing and playing carry the day. In that capacity, pianist Bill Charlap shows himself to be wise beyond his years in keeping a low profile but making his presence felt, and with deep gratitude. And, for a touch of deep historical perspective, writer George Simon pens the notes.
By Fred Bouchard.
Carol Sloane and Clark Terry! Can they still cut it? Oh yes. In the liner notes for The Songs Ella & Louis Sang, George Simon says, "After listening to these, Carol's latest recorded sounds, I realize once more how musically and sensitively and clearly she sings — even better than before-if that's possible! Clark Terry is one of the most talented, admired and respected of all musicians. He spent three years with Count Basie, eight with Duke Ellington, and many more on records, radio and television...His admirers are legion." Amen. Bill Charlap (piano), Marcus McLaurine (bass) and Dennis Mackrel (drums) provide able and unobtrusive backing for this dynamic duo. The 77-year-old Clark sings and plays his trumpet and flugelhorn, which are as sharp as ever, and this one is fun from start to finish.
But isn't it just sort of an Elvis impersonator record? Why not just go pick up the old Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald stuff? After all, there is only one track here that Louis and Ella didn't record: Louis' "When It's Sleepy Time Down South," which becomes a showcase for Terry's glorious Dixie-ish chops. But even though Louis and Ella do all this, and Clark and Carol aren't really interested in breaking new ground with this material, this disc is no cynical knockoff. With talents as rich as Carol Sloane and Clark Terry, what they do with these sturdy songs is worth hearing alongside the originals. Carol and Clark restrict their Ella and Louis impressions mostly to the opening cut, "I Won't Dance," (not that they don't recur later) a thoroughly charming rouser featuring Clark's running jive and some tasty trumpet licks. Ah, but for trumpet there's "Tenderly," where Terry's muted solo is stunning in its crispness and sensitivity. Certainly one can hear what Miles Davis thought was worth emulating.
Actually, the only problem with this record is that we don't get to hear Terry enough. When we do, he's dead on. On "Can't We Be Friends" he plays subtle homage to Armstrong while turning in another of his own trademark sweet and loping solo turns. And then he sings, darting in front of and behind his Louis mask while Sloane's voice drips honey in authentic Ella fashion. On "Stompin' at the Savoy" he is genial and precise — but when isn't he?
A highlight is "Autumn in New York," a vehicle for Sloane at her most intimate — and effective. The opposite end of the spectrum is "Don't Be That Way" and "Stompin' at the Savoy," but Carol never gets too worked up, even through some amiable scatting. That's all to the good. Instead of the faux passion of too many modern singers, Carol knows that one can often pack more wallop with a whisper than with a shout.
This album has the same kind of confident atmosphere as the Heath Brothers' new As We Were Saying and the new duets from Chick Corea and Gary Burton: relaxed and thoroughly in control, veteran masters show their stuff and enjoy themselves thoroughly in the process. With an old jokester like Terry on hand here, the enjoyment quality is high—for himself, Carol Sloane, and the listener.
By Robert Spencer.
Carol Sloane- (Vocals);
Clark Terry- (Vocals, Trumpet, Flugelhorn);
Bill Charlap- (Piano);
Marcus McLaurine- (Bass);
Dennis Mackrel- (Drums).
01. I won't dance not rated 5:00
02. Tenderly not rated 4:22
03. Don't be that way not rated 6:17
04. Can't we be friends not rated 4:32
05. Gee baby, ain't I good to you? not rated 4:29
06. Autumn in New York not rated 5:35
07. Let's do it not rated 5:07
08. The stars fell on Alabama not rated 4:56
09. Moonlight in Vermont not rated 4:13
10. Blueberry hill not rated 5:37
11. Stompin' at the Savoy not rated 5:42
12. When it's sleepy time down south not rated 3:25