This is Sloane's third (and best) Ellington album as well as her first release for Arbors. Her love for Duke's compositions and respect for the output of his often under-appreciated lyricists go back a while. "Prelude to a Kiss" and "In a Sentimental Mood." appearing here as a medley, were originally recorded by Sloane on her Columbia albums of the sixties. The latter is a lyrical collaboration of voice and tenor as the piano lays out. Pianist Brad Hatfield belongs in the select group of superb Sloane accompanists that includes Mike Renzi, Jimmy Rowles and Bill Charlap while reedman Ken Peplowski is a master of all jazz styles. " Serenade to Sweden," the only instrumental, is just one proof of their solo abilities and the subtlety of their work with Sloane is a treat for the ears.
Sloane caresses the lyrics of a number of Ellington ballads with impeccable taste and intonation. "Day Dream" with its rarely-sung verse is simply beautiful -just Sloane and Hatfield. In "I've Got It Bad," Peplowski salutes Ben Webster and in "Mood Indigo" his mellow clarinet tone provides Ellington atmosphere. She swings effortlessly on the up tempo tunes which include "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me" and "I Let A Song Go Out of my Heart." Then the blues: the earthy " Rocks in my Bed" with Sloane and clarinet, segueing into " I Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues." It wouldn't be Duke without humor. The set ends with a relaxed " Just Squeeze Me" vocal duet. Peplowski sings too!
Carol Sloane, now in a league all her own, deserves a very large bouquet of her favorite white roses for Dearest Duke.