May 15th – Carol Sloane – Something To Live For

Here’s a favourite version of a favourite song. In common with most jazz singers, I love the Ellington/Strayhorn songbook. Perhaps not quite so well known as Lush Life, Take the ‘A’ Train, Day Dream or Satin Doll, Something To Live For was their first collaboration.

Like many of Strayhorn’s ballads, it is extraordinarily satisfying to sing. Most singers seem to stick pretty close to the original melody as if to tinker with it would throw the whole piece of balance – and, indeed, it has so many ‘jazz’ elements already built in (the chromaticism in many of the phrases of the refrain for example) that the tune does most of the work for you. It also has one of the most beautiful verses – both musically and lyrically – ever written. All the more extraordinary given that Strayhorn was only in his teens when he penned it.

Carol Sloane, in common with many jazz singers of her generation, enjoyed early success and then struggled to maintain a career in the late 60s and 70s. Thankfully she experienced a renaissance in the 80s and went on to record a number of classic albums for Concord and others. Sloane, incidentally, has recorded no less than three whole albums of Ellington material. This recording is from relatively early in her ‘comeback’ and shows the full breadth of her understated artistry. Mike Renzi on piano.