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Bill Charlap on the unique spirit of vocalist Carol Sloane

Carol Sloane
Carol Sloane

I was first introduced to the artistry of Carol Sloane in my 20s by my dear friend and mentor Sir Richard Rodney Bennett. One afternoon when we were relaxing at his Upper West Side apartment, Richard said to me, “We’re going to hear Carol Sloane tonight at Fat Tuesday’s.” It was clear to me that this was both a gift and a command by Sir Richard, who knew more about singers and the song and pretty much about all music than anyone I had ever known… but I had no idea how deeply affecting, uplifting, and life-changing that night would become for me.

We grabbed a cab and went downtown. There was a palpable buzz of expectation in the room. When the set began, a diminutive elegant lady walked onto the bandstand and sang with such exquisite taste, warmth, complete control of her instrument, perfect pitch and effervescence that I was filled with that magical weightless floating feeling when you experience a singular artist, with that most elusive and deepest sense of extemporaneous swing. My heart was full, and each breath took the next breath away. That night was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

At Sir Richard's suggestion, Carol Sloane reached out to me to play with her at one of her next engagements. We got on like a house on fire! The chemistry was instant, and thus began a wonderful four-year period where we performed and recorded frequently. She trusted me and nurtured me musically. But it wasn’t just a professional relationship, we became true friends. I often think about one of the things that Fred Rogers talked about… that is, people who loved you into being.

Carol Sloane was one of those very special people in my life. She was a model of confidence coupled with humility. Her sound, always soulful and rich. Her spiritual generosity, lifting. Listen to the way she sings “Deep Purple” on her debut recording with the incredible orchestral arrangement of Bill Finnegan… or the deep probing lyrical nuance with which she approaches “When I Look In Your Eyes” from the first album we recorded together. The spirit of Carol Sloane will live on forever in the beautiful music which she left us. I will love her and miss her forever.

Grammy award winning pianist Bill Charlap has performed with many of the leading artists of our time including Phil Woods, Tony Bennett, Gerry Mulligan, Wynton Marsalis, Freddy Cole and Houston Person. Born in New York City, Charlap began playing the piano at age three. His father was Broadway composer Moose Charlap, whose credits include Peter Pan, and his mother is singer Sandy Stewart, who toured with Benny Goodman, and was a regular on the Perry Como show. She earned a 1963 Grammy nomination for her recording of “My Coloring Book." In 2005, Charlap and Stewart released the acclaimed CD, Love Is Here To Stay (Blue Note). In 1997, Charlap formed his trio with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington, now recognized as one of the leading groups in jazz.