Born Carol Morvan on March 5, 1937, in Providence, RI; daughter of Claudia and Frank Morvan (textile mill workers); married Charlie Jefferds, 1955; divorced, 1958; married Buck Spurr, 1986. Addresses: Record company--Concord Records, P.O. Box 845, Concord, CA 94522, fax: (925) 682-3508, phone: (925) 682-6770, http://www.concordrecords.com. Agent--Bennett Morgan & Associates, Ltd. 1022 Route 376, Wappingers Falls, NY 12590, fax: (845) 227-4002, phone: (845) 227-6065. Website--Carol Sloane Official Website: http://www.carolsloane.com.
Carol Sloane is considered one of jazz's best interpreters. Although she grew up admiring the sounds of Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, and Vic Damone, she was eventually seduced by the styles of African American singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and her mentor Carmen McRae, to whom she gratefully pays tribute: "I heard Ella when I was very young, and knew her voice was the perfect voice. I always aspired to that perfect intonation, that diction. And if I'm praised for reading lyrics, it's because Carmen taught me," she told Down Beat. Of her singing technique, Howard Reich wrote in the Chicago Tribune, "Like [Frank] Sinatra ... Sloane shows an impeccable sense of pitch, an unusual sensitivity to jazz rhythm and a keen understanding of the lyrics she sings." Sloane began as a nightclub singer in the1950s, and in a six-decade career that has included many records, regular club dates, and appearances at international jazz festivals, her mellow contralto has garnered a significant following. A "musicians' favorite since the early 60s," wrote Neil Tesser in the Chicago Reader, "her voice has not only smoke but substance, a combination that has distinguished a lot of the great jazz singers...."
Born Carol Morvan on March 5, 1937, in Providence, Rhode Island, Sloane, the oldest of two daughters, grew up in the nearby town of Smithfield. During World War II, her parents, Claudia and Frank Morvan, worked in a textile mill. The family was a large one, and abundant with musicians, especially singers. In 1951, when she was 14 years old, her uncle Joe got her an audition with Ed Drew, whose society dance band played each Wednesday and Saturday night at the Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet ballroom in Cranston, Rhode Island. She got the job and started her singing career earning $9.80 a night. Four years later, she married Charlie Jefferds, a Providence disc jockey. She followed her new husband to Fort Carsten, Colorado, for his basic training, and then to Germany for a yearlong tour of duty.
In 1958, the couple returned to the United States and divorced. Sloane went back to singing and soon encountered the road manager for the Les and Larry Elgart Orchestra, at that time touring New England. After she auditioned for Larry Elgart, he invited her to perform club dates with the band in New York; he also persuaded her to change her name from "Morvan" to "Sloane." But after two years on the road with the band, Sloane found herself bored with that way of life and frustrated by still being unknown. She left the band and, setting a precedent that she would return to at later stages of her career--even after she had earned a degree of fame--she accepted work behind a desk, initially as a temporary secretary, and later as a legal assistant.
From Oscar Peterson to Columbia Records
In 1960, the former Elgart band road manager, Bob Bonis, who had become a talent representative for the Willard Alexander agency, arranged for Sloane to appear at a Pittsburgh jazz festival. There she became acquainted with the famous singing trio Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. Impressed by her performance, Jon Hendricks signed her as an understudy for group member Annie Ross. She was never needed to stand in, but a year later at the Village Vanguard she shared the stage with them to sing a couple of numbers herself, and the club's owner offered her a booking with legendary pianist Oscar Peterson's band. This turned out to be her big break, and she knew it. "I stammered an acceptance, and walked five feet off the ground on the way home," she remembered in comments at her website.
In 1961, Hendricks persuaded the organizers of the Newport Jazz Festival to include her in their "New Stars" program. By singing--some say only starting--the Rodgers and Hart song "Little Girl Blue" a cappella (because the pianist didn't know the verse), she won accolades from the New York press for her intonation and pitch. No less dazzled was a Columbia Records representative who signed her to her first recording contract. Columbia recorded her first solo album, Out of the Blue, shortly afterward. Ill at ease in the studio, however, she followed this up with a live album, Live At 30th Street in 1962.
As a result of this exposure, Sloane's career took off. Suddenly in demand by nightclubs to open for such comedians as Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, and the Smothers Brothers, she appeared often at Chicago's Mr. Kelly's, New York's Blue Angel, and San Francisco's Hungry I, among others. She also regularly appeared pretelecast for the studio audience of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show and was a cast member of Arthur Godfrey's weekly radio program on CBS.
Rock 'n' roll had begun to push jazz to the fringe of popular culture, however; clubs closed and audiences dwindled, and Sloane found it increasingly difficult to support herself in New York. She began writing jazz reviews for Down Beat, and in 1970, roughly a year after a booking at the Frog and Nightgown in Raleigh, North Carolina, she moved to that city. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Sloane also toured Japan, recording a number of albums there and at home.
Scrapped Plans for an "Ordinary" Life
In Raleigh she found audiences much more enthusiastic about her music, but after several years singing in clubs by night and working by day as a legal secretary, she moved back to New York to collaborate with jazz pianist Jimmy Rowles. Their turbulent relationship ended in 1980 when he moved to Los Angeles and she to New England. In 1981 she briefly worked again for a law firm, this time in Boston, but, according to comments at her website, soon scrapped her plans for an "ordinary" life, moving back to North Carolina to open a dinner club with a friend in Chapel Hill. She found it rewarding to book appearances for friends such as Shirley Horn, Joe Williams, George Shearing, and Carmen McRae, but the club closed after only two years. During this time, Sloane worked for the first time as a jazz show host on WUNC, Chapel Hill's National Public Radio affiliate.
In 1984 Sloane went back in Boston, singing and working as a substitute disc jockey at WGBH, and met her second husband, Buck Spurr, in a club. They married in 1986, a milestone which roughly coincided with the end of her dire financial straits and resurgence as a recording artist.
Flourished as Recording Artist
In 1988 and 1990, she recorded two albums, Love You Madly and The Real Thing, for the Contemporary label. In 1991 she signed with Concord Jazz and recorded Sweet & Slow, When I Look in Your Eyes and the popular and critically acclaimed tributes The Songs Carmen Sang, The Songs Sinatra Sang, and Songs Ella & Louis Sang. She subsequently recorded Romantic Ellington for DRG.
Of the Ellington tribute, JazzTimes magazine's Patricia Myers wrote, "Sloane's eloquent tribute to the Ellington genius indicates she might be a worthy successor to Ella's throne." The Chicago Reader's Tesser commented, "When Carol Sloane sings, she connects inspiration and respiration: it's as if she were exhaling music. As effortlessly as she draws breath, Sloane imbues a tune with a lifetime of nuance, relying on flawless intonation to sell both the original melody and her gentle but welcome departures from it."
In 1998, Sloane began to appear with the Boston Pops Orchestra, and in 1999 sang an engagement with the New York Pops. She also participated in a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at Carnegie Hall. A year later she returned to radio hosting, this time five days a week for WICN, the National Public Radio affiliate in Worcester, Massachusetts, but a year later chose to concentrate solely on her singing and recording career. In October of 2001 she released I Never Went Away on High Note.
In 1997, Jazz Improv magazine wrote, "Throughout her life Carol Sloane has nurtured an attitude of optimism and enthusiasm for all that life has to offer. It is an innate quality that is deeply reflected and personified in her singing. Natural and unaffected, warm and confident, it is a voice that embraces a melody and a listener with equal parts maturity and conviction. It is a voice that combines spirit with character and elegance with style. In essence, it is the sound of authentic jazz singing."
by D. László Conhaim
Carol Sloane's Career
Began singing career with Ed Drew's society dance band at the Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet ballroom, Cranston, RI, age 14; toured with the Les and Larry Elgart Orchestra, 1958-60; sang with Lambert, Hendricks and Ross at the Village Vanguard, 1961; first album, Out of the Blue, produced by Columbia, 1961; released second album, Carol Sloane Live at 30th Street, 1962; opened for such comedians as Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, and the Smothers Brothers, mid-1960s; moved between New York, North Carolina, and New England performing, recording, and working as a legal secretary, 1970s-80s; worked during this period as a jazz show host at National Public Radio affiliate in Chapel Hill, NC; first appeared with the Boston Pops Orchestra, 1998; sang an engagement with the New York Pops Orchestra, 1999; returned to radio hosting for National Public Radio affiliate in Worcester, MA, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Out of the Blue , Columbia, 1961; reissued, 1996.
- Carol Sloane Live at 30th Street , Columbia, 1962.
- Carol Sings , Progressive, 1979.
- Love You Madly , Contemporary, 1988.
- The Real Thing , Contemporary, 1990.
- Sweet & Slow , Concord Jazz, 1993.
- The Songs Carmen Sang , Concord Jazz, 1995.
- The Songs Sinatra Sang , Concord Jazz, 1996.
- Songs Ella & Louis Sang , Concord Jazz, 1997.
- Romantic Ellington , DRG, 1999.
- Carol Sloane: Ballad Essentials , Concord Jazz, 2001.
- I Never Went Away , High Note, 2001.
- Boston Globe, January 3, 1998.
- Chicago Reader, September 18-24, 1998.
- Chicago Tribune, September 12, 1998.
- Down Beat, November, 1998.
- Los Angeles Times, May 29, 1998.
- "Carol Sloane," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/cg/x.dll?p=amg&sql=B126015 (December 12, 2001).
- "Carol Sloane," Bennett Morgan & Associates, Ltd., http://www.bennettmorgan.com/artistinfo/carolsloane.html (December 12, 2001).
- "Carol Sloane," Gary Shivers on Jazz, http://www.members.aol.com/gsonjazz/sloane/cs-home1.htm (January 13, 2002).
- Carol Sloane Official Website, http://www.carolsloane.com (December 12, 2001).
- "Joan Merrill: Saying It with Jazz," Jazz Now Direct, http://www.jazznow.com/NSMerrill.html (December 12, 2001).
- "Sloane, Carol," MusicWeb Encyclopaedia of Popular Music, http://www.musicweb.uk.net/encyclopaedia/s/S118.HTM (December 12, 2001).